Oneida Nation’s Ray Halbritter on 'Meet the Press' for Redskins Controversy

Rob Capriccioso

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.

RELATED: Opponents of Racist DC Mascot to Hold Event at NFL Fall Meeting

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.

RELATED: Obama Says Redskins Should Think Seriously About Changing 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.

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trumpetnative's picture
Submitted by trumpetnative on
We must protect our culture, we are not a brand, we are a people! Cultural appropriation of Native Americans for profit and commerce is racist! Only ignorance passes it off as anything else.

Cagey1's picture
Submitted by Cagey1 on
Really? Let's get after those racist Navajo Indians from Red Mesa High School. Their mascot is the Redskins.

Glen Douglas's picture
Glen Douglas
Submitted by Glen Douglas on
This football team, the Cleveland baseball team and a couple others that are racist are going to have to change. We know what your "history,legacy and tradition" has been as a country and a team. Is this to be your future? Under this umbrella than I'll just have to shout my heart out for those Tottenham "Yids" in soccer, and I won't be disparaging or showing disrespect to a racial or ethnic group either.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
where is the Washington DCmeeting taking place? Time and Location?

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
From the article: "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." Some might say that I was generalizing or stereotyping conservatives by suggesting they were on the side of this debate that rationalizes using "Redskins." Well, it turns out I wasn't wrong. It's the rich, White, conservatives who cling to their last racial slur. This country is changing and they don't like it one bit. A co-worker of mine expressed surprise that all NDNs aren't conservative. I'm sure he was thinking of their red-herring, illegal immigration that we'd side with them on, but they (not surprisingly) forget that THEY were the illegal immigrants and that the last thing most Indians in the U.S. want is for things to remain the same (the definition of a conservative). Of course we're all conservative! We love living in poverty, we love unemployment, we love having immeasureable respect from our countrymen, we love how you "honor" us with your little Indian caricatures and your tomahawk chops. We LOVE that our very own racial slur is one that you can still use around the water cooler at work and not get fired. That's why we're all conservative.

Debra Whitefoot's picture
Debra Whitefoot
Submitted by Debra Whitefoot on
In reply to Brendan Buck: Maybe we should call them the Whiteskins Team.

albert ferguson's picture
albert ferguson
Submitted by albert ferguson on
redcloud is one you will be disrespecting by trying to change legacy and tradition for our national team, washington redskins, just like the president who will be impeached for cramming down his health care into us all, and disrespecting our fallen veterans as well as mr oneida should be ashamed and should be arrested for slandering our native american ancestor, redcloud, in the midst our govt shut down...washington redskins will be forever until earth is comsumed by the sun.