The Oneida Indian Nation wanted to have a showdown with the National Football League on Monday, scheduling a gathering to oppose the real name of the Washington Pigskins at the Ritz-Carlton in D.C.—-the same place as this week’s NFL fall league meeting. The only problem: There are two Ritz-Carltons in D.C., and the Oneida Indian Nation had booked their meeting at the wrong one.
But the show went on at the Georgetown Ritz anyway, and the New York-based tribe led a symposium with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton; Rep. Betty McCollum, the Minnesota Democrat who co-chairs the the Congressional Native American Caucus; Ray Halbritter, a representative of the Oneida Indian Nation, and others.
“This is divisive,” Halbrittersaid. “It is hypocritical to say you’re America’s pastime, but not represent America’s ideals.”
Norton spoke from her experience as an African-American woman in a near-majority black city, comparing the discrimination blacks have faced to that of Native Americans.
“I don’t see how anyone who went through our experience cannot identify with the Native Americans,” she said, adding later that she doesn’t “expect the team name to last much longer.”
The symposium came just days after President Barack Obama told the Associated Press that if he owned the team and “I knew that the name of my team—even if they’ve had a storied history—was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”
The Oneida Indian Nation launched its “Change the Mascot” campaign in September to urge the team to change its name, which Pigkins owner Dan Snyder has said he will “NEVER” change.
The NFL and the tribe were scheduled to have a meeting in November to discuss the name, but an NFL representative reached out to the Oneidas last week to see if they could meet earlier since the NFL could not attend today’s symposium because of their own meetings, according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. ” We respect that people have differing views” on the name, McCarthy tells City Desk by email. “It is important that we listen to all perspectives.”
Photo by Perry Stein