The NFL’s Washington Redskins, whose name and mascot have been a source of controversy in recent months because of the reference to Native Americans, have found both a new opponent and supporter of a name change.
The latest development in this on-going campaign to change the name now features 60 clergy members, who all signed a petition this week to try and get the franchise to switch its name, according to a news release. The clergy members' thoughts were summed up in a radio ad from the Change the Mascot campaign:
"Faith leaders and organizations from a variety of faith backgrounds are increasingly voicing their disapproval of the team’s name and making it clear that the time to change the name is now," said Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter in a statement. "These clergy leaders have sent a powerful message to the NFL that no group deserves to be treated as the target of a hurtful racial slur, and that Native Americans should be treated as what we are: Americans."
The Rev. Graylan Hagler “circulated the letter and rallied support from clergy members representing a diverse range of communities through the D.C. metro area and beyond,” the release said. Hagler will also narrate the radio ad that is set to air on Washington’s WTOP-FM and WPRS Praise-FM stations before Washington’s home game this Sunday.
This is hardly the first time Hagler has called for a name change. On Oct. 23, the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ held a meeting of just under 40 people from different churches, and Hagler, a senior minister for the church, “asked for a show of hands … to indicate which clergy members in attendance would be willing to preach against what he termed the ‘R word,’” according an article by Religion News Service. More than 12 members raised their hands, adding to the dozen clergy members who had already committed to the cause, the article said.
Since them, the number has continued to increase.
Others are speaking out in support of a name change, too. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told The Hill that changing the name “probably would be a good idea.”
In October, President Barack Obama spoke out against the franchise’s name, according to The Washington Post.
“If I were the owner of the team and I knew that the name of my team, even if they’ve had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it,” Pres. Obama said.
But team owner Daniel Snyder continues to defend the name, according to RNS. He wrote and released a letter last week that cited “polling, tradition and childhood memories” as reasons to stay with the name, RNS reported. Earlier this year, Snyder told USA Today he would never change the name.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who’s also been under scrutiny in recent weeks, recently spoke on 106.7 The Fan radio station this week and said the team should stick with the name, The Washington Post reported. Ford previously spoke out in support of the Redskins current name on Wednesday before the radio broadcast, The National Post reported.
“To me, that’s ridiculous,” he said on Wednesday about a name change, according to The National Post. “What are we going to call the Cleveland Indians? The Cleveland Aboriginals? Where do we start? The Skins are the Skins and I stick with the Washington Redskins.”
A change could be on the way, though.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Snyder recently registered the trademark Washington Bravehearts. But TMZ, which originally reported the story, said Snyder and Redskins representatives denied any connection between the Redskins and the Bravehearts.