President Obama is going to war against the Washington Redskins’ team name, meeting Tuesday with a casino executive to discuss anti-Redskins activism.
Oneida Nation Enterprises CEO Ray Halbritter, who currently holds the title Nation Representative for the Oneida nation, has waged a non-stop campaign to get the NFL franchise to change its name.
Tribal and Census Bureau documents throw serious doubt on Halbitter’s claim to be a member of the Oneida Nation, with a New York state assemblywoman claiming he has “not a drop of Oneida in him.” (Related: Documents: Anti-Redskins Indian leader not a legitimate member of his tribe).
Halbritter, who pushed the gaming compact under which Turning Stone Casino operates, was removed as head of the tribal government by the Grand Council of Chiefs in 1993, only to be reinstated by the federal government at the urging of then-Rep. Sherwood Boehlert of New York, a prominent Republican casino supporter. Halbritter is hated by many members of the Oneida nation, who accuse him of abusive rule and disenfranchising valid members of the Oneida nation. (Related: Anti-Redskins campaigner runs abusive tribal government, Oneida members say)
Nevertheless, the president welcomed Halbritter and other tribal leaders to a closed meeting at the White House in which they expressed gratitude for his weighing in on the controversy over the name of the privately owned team. In October Obama became the first president to offer an opinion on the long-running Redskins dispute, saying the team name should be changed if it offended “a sizable group of people,” reports the AP.
Obama also said, “I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things.”
For his speaking out on the issue, Halbritter presented him with a football jersey from a high school in upstate New York. The high school in Cooperstown had changed their team name from the Redskins to the Hawkeyes earlier in the year in an attempt to be more politically correct.
Although the Veterans Day meeting with the president was low-key, Halbritter’s high-profile activism has brought him under increasing pressure from disgruntled members of the Oneida nation. (Related: Anti-Redskins activist confronted by tribe advocate at press conference)
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has resisted calls from pundits and politicians to change the Redskins name. In this stance he is supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans and many American Indians, who oppose the change.