The Washington Redskins reportedly contacted a top minister of the United Church of Christ, 11 days before the denomination votes on a resolution on whether to protest the football team over their controversial name.
The Rev. John R. Deckenback, conference minister of the denomination's Central Atlantic Conference, told The Washington Post in a recent interview that Redskins Chief Financial Officer Karl Schreiber called him this week and had him speak to three men, all from the Blackfeet Nation Native American tribe.
Deckenback told The Washington Post that the three Native Americans told him why they took pride in the controversial name for Washington's NFL team. Deckenback said that he found his exchange with members of the Blackfeet Nation to be "unusual," although ultimately he saw the effort on behalf of the Redskins team to be a positive thing, as it shows the team is "spending energy and time to track us down and talk about it."
"I thought it was [a] very unusual interchange in that certainly there are different opinions regarding this question," the minister said. "But it doesn't really get to the nuts and bolts of should a pro sports team that receives substantial public financial support be using a name that others find demeaning."
The Redskins moniker has previously been criticized by some who argue it is a racial slur, and in March, the UCC's board of directors for the Central Atlantic Conference voted to pass a resolution boycotting the team's games and merchandise.
The resolution, which is being voted on at the upcoming Central Atlantic Conference's annual meeting on June 14, states that all members of the denomination "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."
The Redskins have repeatedly defended their team name, arguing that it is a symbol of tradition for the Native American community. Team spokesman Tony Wyllie previously told The Washington Post that the team "[respects] 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."
Others have also voiced their support for the name, including former "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather, who recently said in an interview that he didn't think the name should be changed.
"No," Rather said when asked on DC50′s "NewsPlus with Mark Segraves" if he would change the name. "Straight answer."
"It's not my call. I understand the impetus for changing the name, but you asked the question, if it were my call, no. I do expect, somewhere along the line, it will be changed, because I think those making the argument that it's the decent and right thing to do, over a period of time, will probably prevail," Rather added.