When preachers meet in the basement of a church, change inevitably occurs. Martin Luther King, Jr. organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott from the basement of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1960. And weeks ago, clergy members sat in the basement of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ to organize what action they would take to change the Washington NFL team’s name.
The clergy decided to write a letter.
More than 60 clergy have officially joined the Change the Mascot campaign after writing a letter to NFL Commish Roger Goodell and Dan Synder opposing the team’s name.
The letter is highlighted in the latest radio ad from the campaign which is set to air this weekend on WTOP-FM and WPRS Praise-FM leading up to the team’s home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Rev. Grayland Hagler rallied support from clergy members representing the D.C. metro area in recent weeks, but he has fought against the team’s name for more than 20 years.
“I feel a responsibility to stand up for the Biblical principles of love, dignity, respect and compassion,” Hager says in the new ad. “This word is defined in the dictionary as a slur and was made the team name by George Preston Marshall, one of the nation's most famous segregationists. In 2013, this is a word that should not be publicly marketed and celebrated in America.”
Hager, who narrates the ad, tells listeners that “whatever your particular religious tradition, you will also join this campaign” and encourages them to “talk to your friends and family, write a letter to the editor, send an email to the NFL or bring a sign to a Washington game” to get the team to change its name.
The radio spot is the latest from the Oneida Indian Nation’s "Change the Mascot" campaign, which has aired similar ads in Washington and all cities where the team has played road games throughout the NFL season.
“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 press release. “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.”
Reverend Graylan Hagler, pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in Washington, D.C.
The ad is called “Moral issue” and Hager says in the ad that changing the team name is not just a civil rights issue, but a moral one.
“Each of us, regardless of our religious tradition, gender, or the color of our skin, is created in the image of the Almighty,” Hager wrote in the letter. “We should all strive to treat one another with dignity, respect and compassion, just as we would like to be treated ourselves.”