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Native American leaders 'disappointed' after meeting with NFL

The SportsXchange

Unable to sway Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change his team's nickname, representatives of the Oneida Indian Nation on Wednesday called upon the NFL to sanction Snyder and the team for its continued used of a nickname and team mascot that "promote a dictionary-defined racial slur," according to ESPN.com.

However, after a 90-minute meeting, Oneida officials did not appear to seem optimistic of any forthcoming change after meeting with three senior NFL officials, but not commissioner Roger Goodell, who was traveling and unable to attend the meeting.

"(The NFL officials) defended the use of a racist name," Oneida spokesman Joel Barkin said.

The Oneida representatives asked for a meeting of all NFL team owners during the week leading up to the Super Bowl, as well as have Snyder and Goodell personally visit the nation's homelands in upstate New York.

"We are very disappointed," Barkin said. "This is the beginning of a process. It's clear that they don't see how this is not a unifying term. They don't have a complete appreciation for the breadth of opposition of Native Americans to this mascot and name."

Goodell met with Snyder Tuesday about the issue. The Washington Post reported that Snyder told Goodell he will not change the team's nickname.

"We met at the request of Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Nation," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We listened and respectfully discussed the views of Mr. Halbritter, Oneida Nation Wolf Clan Representative Keller George and their colleagues, as well as the sharply differing views of many other Native Americans and fans in general. The meeting was part of an ongoing dialogue to facilitate listening and learning, consistent with the commissioner's comments earlier this year."

The meeting was believed to be the first between the NFL and any Native American leaders, ESPN.com reported.

Halbritter presented a two-page letter address to Goodell that requested the league amend its bylaws to disallow teams from naming themselves with "dictionary-defined racial slurs," which the Oneida leaders said includes the word "Redskins."

In his letter to Goodell, Halbritter asked that the commissioner use his powers to bring disciplinary action against Snyder -- or any owner, for that matter -- who is "guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the league or professional football."

"As Commissioner," Halbritter wrote, "you have exercised your authority to act pursuant to this provision under circumstances that are far less egregious than the use of a racial epithet as a team's name, including imposition of sanctions for salary cap violations, prohibitions of on-field celebrations that do not reflect well on the game and punishing off-field misconduct by team officials."

Snyder has continually said he will "never" change the nickname. He was not available for comment Wednesday.

But earlier this month, Snyder, released an open letter to the team's fans, giving his reasons why the name should not be changed.

"After 81 years," Snyder wrote, "the team name 'Redskins' continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come."

According to a 30-page study commissioned by the Oneida Nation, "Native Americans are the only group in the United States subjected to having a racial slur as the mascot of a prominent professional sports team," clinical psychologist Michael A. Freidman wrote in his study. "The Washington football team, whether it intends to do so or not, is contributing to prejudice and discrimination against Native Americans by persisting in using the 'R-word.'

"With the help of the National Football League's $9 billion a year global marketing machine, this behavior not only repeatedly exposes Native Americans to a harmful stereotype, but also implicitly condones the use of this term by non-Native Americans, which if performed on an interpersonal level would possibly constitute harassment or bullying."
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