Proponents of Redskins Name Change Call Moniker a 'Public Health Issue'

In response to Obama’s remarks, Lanny Davis, an attorney for the Redskins, cited Sunday an Annenberg Institute poll in 2004 that found 90 percent of Native Americans do not find the team’s name offensive. Davis also referenced a 2013 AP poll showing that 80 percent of Americans do not think the team should change its name.

Davis also noted other teams named after Native Americans who are not being targeted by the “Change the Mascot” campaign.

“I do wonder why he’s not talking about the Chicago Blackhawks who won the Stanley Cup or the Atlanta Braves,” Davis said.

Halbritter said while there are certain Native American names that can be respectful, such as those used by some sports teams, “redskin” is an offensive term that should not be used to “sell a national sports team to America or the rest of the world.”

“The name of the Washington team is a dictionary-defined offensive racial epithet, which these other team names are not, but there is a broader discussion to be had about using these mascots generally,” he said.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary labels the term as “usually offensive.” Smithsonian Institution senior linguist Ives Goddard has pointed out the term was used first by Native Americans in the early 1800s to distinguish themselves from other races.

Dr. Michael Friedman, a clinical psychologist, said the continued use of the name is a “public health issue.”

“The easiest way to dismiss the use of the Washington Redskins name is to discuss it as a victimless crime – an issue of political correctness,” Friedman said. “The continued use of a racial slur has a direct public health consequence.”

Friedman argued the name has detrimental effects on the health of Native Americans. He said Native Americans should not have to deal with issues affecting their self-esteem when they already have a level of psychological distress higher than any other group in the nation. The Native American population has twice as much depression, alcoholism, and other physical and mental issues, he said.

“When you consider that public health context, any kind of stressor that causes more suffering has to be considered not a political correctness issue but a public health issue,” Friedman said.

Organizers of the event sent an invitation to Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs, who could not attend because of the league’s quarterly meetings.

The Washington Post reported, however, that NFL officials have scheduled a meeting with representatives of the Oneida Nation for November 22.