Native American leaders and allies held a press conference Friday to remind naysayers and fanatical sports fans that the campaign to change the name of the Washington NFL team is here to stay.
The press conference was held more than week after The Washington Post published a controversial poll claiming 9 out of 10 Native Americans are not offended by the name of the Washington NFL team.
Since its release, the poll has been widely excoriated by Native Americans, academics, and journalists calling it skewed, saying the newspaper's methodology was flawed.
"Polls do not regulate what is right or wrong," said Reverend Graylan Hagler, senior pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C., during the hour-long phone conference. Graylan drew reference to times in the U.S. when certain habits were widely approved, but morally repugnant.
Amanda Blackhorse, Diné, the lead plaintiff in a case against the Washington team, said the Washington Post's poll was an "attack on the indigenous voice," and that the effort to change the name will continue for years to come.
She added that the term is a dictionary-defined racial slur — one that team owner, Dan Snyder, won't refer to her by.
"It's a slur, and it’s a term I’ve asked the Washington football team owner if he would dare call me to my face," she said. "I've never received a straight answer to that question. If it was respectful, well, I wouldn’t be asking this question again today."
Ray Halbritter, representative of the Oneida Indian Nation, and Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, both leaders in the Change the Mascot movement, took turns criticizing the poll as well as demonstrating how local communities are working to remove the slur from their schools.
"School boards all across the country have elected to give up this slur. California, our most populous state, banned it from all public schools," he said. "Dozens of civil rights and religious groups have called for a name change. Half of the Senate asked the NFL to drop the slur. The United Nations expert in this arena, and even the President of the United States have said that it should change."
A Washington NFL team fan is caught on camera in full redface and braided wig during a game in 2015. Courtesy huffingtonpost.com.
ICTMN asked the panel if there are any specific plans for the coming game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Washington NFL team at Wembley Stadium in London this fall. Pata said there are no updates at this time.
"This issue is about children," said Dr. Stephanie Fryberg, associate professor of American Indian Studies and Psychology at the University of Washington. "We know it decreases their self-esteem when they're exposed to this imagery."
Fryberg was one of the authors of the study, "Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The Psychological Consequences of American Indian Mascots," where it was learned that Native American youths who are subjected to racial stereotypes such as mascots and language like the name of the Washington NFL team "reported a depressed state (of) self-esteem and community worth."
Panelists on the conference call also included James Fenelon, professor of Sociology and Director of Center for Indigenous Peoples Studies at California State University at San Bernardino, David Grosso, Washington, D.C. Councilmember At-Large who introduced a resolution calling on the Washington NFL team to change its name. That resolution passed unanimously.
Reporters from The Huffington Post, ESPN, The Washington Post, and Indian Country Today were on the call Friday.