President Obama received a jersey from Cooperstown (N.Y.) High School, which last year changed its mascot from Redskins to Hawkeyes. The Redskins, who have been pushing for sports teams to drop their name, are thankful to the President.
Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter, the public face of a campaign against the Washington pro football club’s team name, thanked President Barack Obama for speaking out on the issue during a meeting at the White House Tuesday.
Halbritter’s comments were met with applause from leaders of a dozen tribes who spoke with the president about a range of economic development issues important to Indian Country, from job creation to increased access to capital to jurisdictional challenges.
Obama said last month in an interview with The Associated Press that if he owned the Washington NFL team he’d think about changing the name.
“I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have about these things,” Obama said then.
Team owner Daniel Snyder has previously said he will never change the team’s name. After Obama’s comments, Snyder wrote a letter in which he defended the mascot as part of the team’s heritage.
Halbritter, who at Tuesday’s meeting sat next to the president in the Roosevelt Room, thanked Obama for lending his voice of support, which brought even more attention to the long-simmering issue of Indian team names in sports.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to express our gratitude, which is what I did,” Halbritter told USA TODAY Sports. “The president acknowledged it, he nodded, and applause spontaneously broke out around the table.”
Tuesday’s meeting was the first of a series of events this week hosted by the White House Council on Native American Affairs to strengthen government-to-government relationships between tribal nations and the U.S. The president is scheduled to host tribal leaders from 566 federally recognized tribes today at the White House Tribal Nations Conference.
Halbritter gave White House staff a jersey for the president from Cooperstown (N.Y.) High School, which last year changed its name from Redskins to Hawkeyes. The Oneida Nation gave the school district $10,000 toward the purchase of new uniforms.