United Church of Christ to boycott Washington Redskins

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The United Church of Christ has voted to boycott the Washington NFL team until it drops its logo and mascot, which Native Americans say are offensive. Photo by  Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports, courtesy of Reuters

The United Church of Christ has voted to boycott the Washington NFL team until it drops its logo and mascot, which Native Americans say are offensive. Photo by Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports, courtesy of Reuters

(RNS) The United Church of Christ, a progressive denomination, has called on its 1 million members to boycott Washington Redskins football games and merchandise until the team drops its controversial name and mascot.

The resolution, supported by several Native American tribes, passed Monday (June 29) at the denomination’s biennial summer synod in Cleveland.

Tuesday, UCC leaders plan to take their 24-year fight against such mascots to Major League Baseball. They will walk to the Cleveland Indians’ team offices with a petition calling for a name and logo change, dropping the image of “Chief Wahoo.”

The fight against Chief Wahoo began in the 1980s, in partnership with Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal and Unitarian Universalist groups.

The UCC, whose members included President Obama when he lived in Chicago, stepped up to include the feather-bedecked chief mascot of the Washington NFL team in 1991. The mid-Atlantic region of the UCC voted for a boycott in June 2014.

The Monday resolution takes the boycott national. It called on the NFL franchise to “change its team name and to refrain from the use of any images, mascots, or behaviors that are harmful or demeaning to Native American cultures or peoples,” said the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, a national officer of the UCC, in a press release.

“The use of the term ‘Redskins’ for the team mascot and nickname of the Washington football team is offensive and causes direct harmful effects to the public health and well-being of the Native American population,” she said.

In a joint statement about the resolution, Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and Jackie Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, representing more than 80 Native American tribes, said they were “honored” by the “effort to help relegate this offensive and outdated slur to the dustbin of history.”

The denomination has plenty of company in protesting the Native American nicknames and mascots. Last year 50 U.S. senators wrote to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and a TV ad produced by the NCAI ran during the NBA Finals in selected markets.

However, the Washington team has its own supporters among Native Americans and its press office repeatedly cites a survey that most support the mascot. In 2014,  when the regional boycott was announced, a team spokesman said, “We wish the United Church of Christ would listen to the voice of the overwhelming majority of Americans, including Native Americans, who support our name and understand it honors the heritage and tradition of the Native American community.”

Team owner Daniel Snyder has publicly vowed never to change the name.

LM/AMB END GROSSMAN

  • Dave Frensley

    This is kind of stupid. The UCC should just pay attention to the fact that they are probably as close to a pure heretical group as can be. Once you become “progressive” you have left The Church behind for political correctness.

    So, these goofy lib churches should be more concerned with their false doctrines than silly social issues.

  • I want to see the numbers of actual Native Americans.who endorse the name “Redskins”. If more Native Americans like it than not, the name should be kept. If there are more Native Americans who don’t like it, the name should be changed. My family ethnicity is Germanic, but I am an American citizen. I don’t mind being called a “kraut” because cabbage is good for you!

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  • Thank you UCC. Now to move forward with a plan to bring about the change. Stopping some income is one thing, Finding a way to build a positive new idea for team identities is the next part of this process. For the record I’m the white woman who filed and assisted Native Americans in Cleveland to also file against the team name and mascot with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission back in 1999.

    A US Supreme Court decision handed down during the review of the case by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission stayed my hand from moving forward and since then I have been working, often quietly, behind the scenes to bring about real change. It is long overdue. Now for the other spiritual leaders to find the courage to do the same as the UCC.

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  • donald costello

    What does this have to do with Church? Don’t you have something that has to do with religion to worry about? The REDSKINS don’t need your members. How many actually go to the games anyway? If my church’s national association got involved in something like this, I’d complain.

  • Jane

    Don, I`m guessing that when your ancestors immigrated to the US they were given less than complimentary names by those already here. As a kid in your neighborhood you might have been called a Dago or a Spic or a Mick as an insult. How about using one of those as a team name? Now can you understand the problem?