McCollum addressed the Oneida Indian Nation’s “Change the Mascot” campaign press conference.
“There are more than five million Native Americans in the United States. They are our neighbors and friends—children, elders, moms and dads, men and women who care about their culture, their communities, and their country,” she said. “Yet, the NFL, particularly (Redskins owner) Dan Snyder, continue to exploit and profit from the racial slur redskins.”
Snyder, for his part, sent a letter to fans in which he said he respects “the opinions of those who are offended by the team name . . . we cannot ignore our 81-year history,” according to the Washington Post.
“I’ve listened carefully to the commentary and perspectives on all sides, and I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name,” he wrote, the newspaper reports. “But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans too.”
The discussion was also taken up recently by President Barack Obama.
“I don’t think there are any Redskins fans that mean offense. I've got to say that if I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team—even if it had a storied history—that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it.
"But I don't want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here,” Obama told the Associated Press, according to Yahoo Sports. “They love their team, and rightly so—even though they’ve been having a pretty tough time this year. But I think—all these mascots and team names related to Native Americans, Native Americans feel pretty strongly about it. And I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have about these things.”
McCollum is co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.
“Americans whose identities are in part defined by race, ethnicity, and religion should never be stereotyped in a degrading, dehumanizing, or demeaning manner. Native Americans are not mascots or caricatures to be exploited for profit,” she said.