WASHINGTON -- Its not just a good old West rivalry anymore.
The symbolism of a Dallas Cowboys-vs.-Washington Redskins football game Sunday couldnt come at a worse time for the capitals embattled National Football League team owner, Daniel Snyder.
The Redskins team name is under fire as never before for being a racial slur, as critics, from President Barack Obama to Native American groups to prominent sportswriters, decry the use of what many view an offensive term for the franchise.
This is not going to go away, Ray Halbritter, an Oneida Indian Nation representative, said in an interview. The momentum is building. Were at a tipping point.
The Oneida Nation, a tribe in upstate New York, is at the forefront of the protests with a Change the Mascot campaign that sponsors radio ads about the name in every city that the Redskins play. It is airing one this week on Dallas-Fort Worths KRLD-FM called Bipartisan, for the bipartisan opposition to the name, citing critical comments from Obama and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who has Native American heritage.
An increasing number of sportswriters refuse to write or say the name, preferring neutral terms like Washington NFL team. Sports Illustrated writer Peter King and USA Today writer Christine Brennan, who covered the team for the Washington Post in the 1980s, recently announced they wont use it.
The Kansas City Star, a McClatchy newspaper, has not used the name for a decade.
The term is patently offensive and insulting to some percentage of Native Americans, said Jeff Rosen, the Stars associate managing editor-sports. That alone was enough for us to stop using it.
Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise, a relentless opponent of the name for years, wrote Monday, Its not a matter of if anymore, but rather when.
It was Obama speaking out Oct. 5 in an interview with the Associated Press that inflamed the already simmering issue.
Ive got to say, if I were the owner of the team and I knew that the name of my team, even if theyve had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, Id think about changing it, the president said.
Snyder, who had famously told USA Today in May that he would never change the name, never . . . you can use all caps, took four days to react to the president. On Oct. 9 he issued a letter to the teams fans that was more conciliatory to the critics but didnt actually budge from his position.
I respect the opinions of those who disagree, he wrote. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn. But we cannot ignore our 81-year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country. After 81 years, the team name Redskins continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.
Snyder is increasingly isolated, however, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has to field questions about the controversy, often from very opinionated sportswriters like Wise, who says the financial pressure from sponsors will be next.
Goodell and NFL officials had already planned a meeting Nov. 22 with the Oneida Nation to learn more about Native Americans concerns, but that is now hopefully being moved up, said Halbritter.