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Redskins Name Change: NFL to Meet With Indian Tribe for Discussion

Image: Redskins Name Change: NFL to Meet With Indian Tribe for Discussion Ray Halbritter, National Representative of the Oneida Indian Nation, speaks at the Change the Mascot symposium in Washington.

By Ken Mandel   |   Wednesday, 09 Oct 2013 04:45 PM

Amid accelerating momentum to change the name of the Washington Redskins, with support coming from as high up as President Barack Obama, the NFL plans to meet with an Indian tribe pushing for the change.

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told The Associated Press earlier this week that a meeting is scheduled for November.

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League owners had their annual fall meetings this week in Washington, D.C., during which the Oneida Indian Nation held a separate symposium elsewhere in the city to promote its "Change the Mascot" campaign. Oneida representative Ray Halbritter said the NFL was invited to attend.

"We respect that people have differing views," McCarthy told the AP. "It is important that we listen to all perspectives."

Last week, Obama told the AP that he would "think about changing" the name if he owned the team, because team names such as the Redskins offend "a sizable group of people." On Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell responded to a question about whether the Washington Redskins should change their name by saying the league needs to "make sure we're doing what's right."

Team owner Daniel Snyder has long stated, sometimes harshly, that he would keep the name. He took a softer tact in an open letter via The Washington Post to Redskins' season-ticket holders, dated Oct. 9. In it, he wrote of attending his first Redskins game, and offered historical meaning behind the name. He also pointed to statistical data that shows a majority of fans don't want a change.

"Our franchise has a great history, tradition and legacy representing our proud alumni and literally tens of millions of loyal fans worldwide," Snyder wrote. "We have participated in some of the greatest games in NFL history, and have won five World Championships. We are proud of our team and the passion of our loyal fans. Our fans sing 'Hail to the Redskins' in celebration at every Redskins game."

He said that he's aware that not everyone shares his opinion.

"I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn," Snyder said. "But we cannot ignore our 81-year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country. After 81 years, the team name 'Redskins' continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.

"We are Redskins Nation and we owe it to our fans and coaches and players, past and present, to preserve that heritage," he wrote.

Halbritter, who told CNN that no one from the NFL attended his symposium, applauded Obama's comments.

"As the first sitting president to speak out against the Washington team name, President Obama's comments over the weekend were nothing less than historic," he told CNN. "Isn't that the real issue? No matter what the history of something is, if it's offending people, then it's time to change it. And this is a great time to do it."

To the NFL, Halbritter said: "It is hypocritical to say you're America's pastime but not represent the ideals of America."

According to Halbritter, the Redskins name is an "offensive racial epithet," as defined in the dictionary, as opposed to other teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Blackhawks, Cleveland Indians, and Atlanta Braves.

"But there is a broader discussion to be had about using mascots generally," he said.

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