The symposium comes three days after President Obama took a stance in the long-standing debate, saying that if he were the team’s owner, he would think about changing the name.
The Oneida Nation launched the “Change the Mascot” campaign a few months ago, drawing inspiration from a high school in its back yard that dropped the “Redskins” moniker. Since then, the New York tribe has emerged as one of the strongest forces behind the growing push to scrap the Washington team’s 80-year-old name, scheduling radio ads to run in every city the Redskins visit this season.
Its conference, held at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown, featured a panel of speakers that included the head of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
, a psychologist who spoke about the public health consequences of the word, student activists and politicians — Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
“I can think of no argument for retaining a name that directly insults Americans and especially our first Americans,” said Holmes Norton, speaking as a third-generation Washingtonian.
She said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell showed leadership last month when he stepped back from his earlier defense of the team’s name and said, “If one person’s offended, we have to listen.”
Nevertheless, no formal discussion of the Washington Redskins’ name is expected among NFL owners who are gathering at another Ritz-Carlton in Washington for a one-day meeting Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.
They said they sense little or no sentiment within the league to urge Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to make a change.
NFL officials were invited to the Native American symposium, but none attended the event, Halbritter said. But he said he was encouraged that Goodell had instructed Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s senior vice president for labor policy and government affairs, to schedule a meeting. The sit-down is scheduled for Nov. 22 at the league’s offices, but two sources said it could be held sooner.
On Monday, as NFL franchise owners began arriving for their Tuesday gathering, several declined comment on the name-change issue.
Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy, who once played for the Redskins, was the athletic director at Colgate when the school changed the name of its athletic teams from Red Raiders to Raiders in 2001. But he declined to speak Monday on the controversy.
“I’d rather not get into it,” Murphy said.
Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie also declined to comment.