|Ray Halbritter, the federally-recognized representative of the Oneida Nation of New
York, reflects on the Change the Mascot movement:
For decades, courageous civil rights activists have organized to pressure Washington’s owners to stop using the R-word as part of the team’s name. The merits of their argument are obvious. The word is a slur that was screamed at Native Americans as they were forced from their lands at gunpoint. It is a word that, according to public-health experts, continues to have deleterious cultural, psychological and social effects on Native American communities. So while famous segregationist George Preston Marshall saw nothing wrong with using the R-word when he owned the team, civil rights leaders such as Suzan Shown Harjo have been rightly saying that it is unacceptable for a professional sports league to continue promoting such a derogatory epithet.
As self-evident as that should be in the 21st century, the Washington team has long counted on the political, media and sports worlds to ignore the name-change campaign for fear of incurring the wrath of the NFL and the current owner, Dan Snyder. But this year, the league’s fear-enforced stonewall was shattered as a diverse coalition of civil rights groups, public-health organizations, religious leaders and sports icons was joined by governors, the D.C. Council, Republican and Democratic members of Congress and even the president of the United States in saying that now is the time for a change.
Taken together, this coalition’s collective message has been clear: 2013 is the year the campaign against the NFL’s use of this racial slur coalesced into a permanent movement. It is not going away until the team either stops using the epithet or, if it won’t do the right thing, the league steps in to take corrective measures.
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Ray Halbritter: Year of reckoning for the Washington ‘R-word’
(The Washington Post 12/27)