Oneida Nation’s Ray Halbritter on 'Meet the Press' for Redskins Controversy
Meet the Press, NBC’s longtime Sunday morning political news show, is the latest large media outlet to cover the controversy over the name of the Washington, D.C. NFL franchise.
This morning, the program featured an interview with Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises, parent company of Indian Country Today Media Network, shot on the tribe’s homelands in central New York at the Shako:wi Cultural Center.
“Any other group or ethnic group would not tolerate this kind of language being used about them that’s so denigrating and dehumanizing,” Halbritter said on the program.
During a brief round-table after Halbritter’s comments, U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) argued that the name should be changed. Fudge is part of a growing group of U.S. Congress members who are urging team owner Daniel Snyder to change the name.
Halbritter’s visibility on this issue goes far beyond his appearance on Meet the Press. The Oneida Indian Nation has announced that it will host a symposium focused on racism involving the team’s name at the NFL Fall League Meeting in Washington, D.C. The meeting is scheduled to take place on October 7, at the Ritz Carlton in Georgetown, and it is just one facet of a large publicity campaign by the tribal nation, called ‘Change the Mascot.’ As part of that effort, the tribe has been airing radio ads in D.C. and other NFL cities, explaining why the name offends so many Native Americans.
Halbritter’s comments on Meet the Press came one day after an Associated Press interview with President Barack Obama in which he denounced the Washington team name.
“If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it,” Obama said.
Halbritter told The Washington Post that the president’s support was “historic” because Obama is the “first sitting president to speak out against the Washington team name.”
While many Native Americans and residents of D.C. support a name change, Snyder, who has vowed to never change the name, says he will not re-consider his position.
Halbritter and other Native American advocates say the increased attention to the issue is important, because it highlights how Indian children can be negatively impacted by racism, but some D.C. power players want the scrutiny to go away. For instance, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, sent a tweet that seems to mock the president’s position soon after the AP interview was posted on October 5. "President Obama, so what *should* we call the Washington professional football club?" wrote Buck, who was a spokesman on the Mitt Romney presidential campaign last year.
Lanny Davis, a lawyer for President Bill Clinton during his administration and now a lawyer for Snyder, released a statement saying that the team name is “our history and legacy and tradition,” adding, “[W]e do not intend to disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group.” Davis was featured in a pre-recorded interview on Meet the Press wearing a Redskins golf shirt.
“Like all fights in this town, both sides are dug in,” said NBC News’ White House correspondent Kristen Walker in her lead-up to the Halbritter interview.