(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
The left-leaning United Church of Christ has proposed a boycott of the Washington Redskins until the NFL team changes its name, which some consider to be offensive to Native Americans.
When the denomination's board of directors for the Central Atlantic Conference met over the weekend in Catonsville, Md., they unanimously voted to approve a proposal that would request all members of the church to "join a boycott of games played by the Washington National League Football team and not wear, display or purchase any items with the Washington National League Football team logo until the name changes."
Now that the 25-member board of directors has passed the resolution, the proposal could be addressed at the CAC's annual meeting this upcoming June. The United Church of Christ has over 180 congregations and 22,000 members. As The Washington Post notes, the CAC has also requested the denomination's national officials to approve of a similar boycott resolution.
The team has continued to defend its moniker, with team spokesman Tony Wyllie telling The Washington Post in response to the possible boycott: "We respect those who disagree with our team's name, but 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."
The issue of the NFL team's name has been long-debated, with members in multiple religious groups publicly decrying the name for what they say is its derogatory connotation. In December 2013, a group of 60 clergy signed a letter to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder imploring him to change the name of the team, based in Washington, D.C.
The letter was circulated by the Rev. Graylan Hagler of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in District of Columbia as part of the Change the Mascot campaign. Haglar said in a statement that the dispute was "not just a civil rights issue – it is a moral issue," and his efforts were championed by the Oneida Indian Nation, which has also advocated for the name change.
Snyder has continued to argue that he and other Redskins officials have no intention of changing their team name that has been around since the 1930s. Proponents of the team name argue that the majority of Native Americans in the U.S. do not care about the name change, while some even see it as a sense of pride and tradition. The team owner said in an interview with USA Today Sports in 2013: "We'll never change the name. … It's that simple. NEVER – you can use caps."