National Edition

Clergy join campaign to get Washington Redskins to 'Change the Mascot'

Published: Monday, Oct. 28 2013 6:15 p.m. MDT

An American Indian tribe is leading a full blitz to change the name and mascot of the Washington Redskins pro-football team.

Nick Wass, Associated Press

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An American Indian tribe is leading a full blitz to change the name and mascot of the Washington Redskins pro-football team.

Last week a group of D.C.-area clergy joined the campaign to get the club to drop the Redskins name, which Native Americans consider an offensive slur, USA Today's Erik Brady reported.

"Black clergy have been the conscience of America," Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter said to a gathering of roughly 40 people on folding chairs in the basement of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ. "This is not a fight we could do by ourselves, or should do by ourselves."

The Oneida Nation is spearheading the Change the Mascot campaign that includes a website and a series of radio ads. Others who have joined the chorus for the change include members of Congress and President Barack Obama.

The Christian Post explored why religious and secular people should care about the controversy.

"I think Christians should be concerned because it's how we love others and how we treat others, not just in what we do, but in what we say," said Donnie Begay, a Navajo who works with Native American college students with Campus Crusade for Christ. "I think Christians could be at the forefront of righting some of the wrongs. Everything I've read, even the secular people, say it's the right thing to do."

The Rev. Graylan Hagler, senior minister at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, urged clergy members to gather petitions at their churches to send to team owner Daniel Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Brady wrote for Religion News Service.

“The derogatory term ‘redskin’ offends many Native Americans and others in this country,” the petition says in part. “This word, defined in the dictionary as a slur, should not be publicly marketed and celebrated in America, which is built on the ideals of respect and inclusion. As representatives of our faith communities, we believe that this is a moral issue and we therefore have an obligation to step forward to join the Change the Mascot movement.”

Shirl James Hoffman, author of "Good Game — Christianity and the Culture of Sports," told the Christian Post, "I think the NFL poses much more important issues to the evangelical community than the character of the mascots they use to promote their teams, issues which evangelicals seem uninterested in addressing. ... The unspeakable violence and the orchestrated effort by the NFL to sell it, the disconnect between the ethic of unbridled competitiveness, and the almost suffocating materialism that pervades not only the NFL but most of our high level sports all would rate a higher place on pressing problems that the church could deal with."

Email: mbrown@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @deseretbrown

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