SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (publ. 9/30/2013, page A4) In an earlier version of Mark Purdy's column about the Washington Redskins' nickname, the website launched by the Oneida Nation was incorrectly identified. The website is www.changethemascot.org.

If you tune into local radio coverage of the Raiders' home game Sunday, you might hear a certain advertisement. And it's not for beer, cars, a phone service, a shoe company or the new weight-loss product that promises to shave off pounds on a diet of unlimited chocolate cupcakes.

The advertisement is sponsored by the Oneida Indian Nation of New York. It supports the campaign to have the Washington Redskins change their nickname to something less offensive.

Washington Redskins running back Roy Helu stiff-arms Oakland Raiders linebacker Nick Roach (53) during the second quarter of an NFL football game in
Washington Redskins running back Roy Helu stiff-arms Oakland Raiders linebacker Nick Roach (53) during the second quarter of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

How pathetic.

How pathetic that, in the year 2013, we're still even having this debate about whether a mascot based on a racial slur is, you know, a mascot based on a racial slur.

How pathetic that in the year 2013, the National Football League, which is so marketing-slick and public-relations-obsessive, allows Washington's team a continuing pass on this easily corrected issue.

How pathetic that a team located in the nation's capital, where legislators pass all sorts of laws that ban discrimination and prejudicial treatment, is permitted to keep doing business with an epithet as a logo.

And how pathetic that a Native American tribe all the way across the country has to spend money for airtime to enlighten folks on the issue out here on the West Coast.

"It's hard to believe we're having this conversation," agreed Ray Halbritter, the Oneida Nation representative who authorized the advertising campaign, when I phoned the other day to ask about it.

The Redskins issue is hardly new. It's been debated for years to no result, frequently with a "what's-the-big-deal" shrug. But lately, the discussion has picked up steam. A few newspapers now ban the Washington nickname in their pages. Peter King, Sports Illustrated's ubiquitous NFL online and broadcast presence, has said he will no longer use the "R" word.

And earlier this month, former Raiders CEO Amy Trask, who now performs television commentary for CBS, weighed in with her opinion that "Washington has an opportunity to do something very powerful and very important by changing the team name and logo."

Halbritter's tribal nation has also decided to raise its voice, too -- with impetus last spring from some teenagers at Cooperstown High in upstate New York, where athletic teams also carried the Redskins nickname. A small group of students, noting that the dictionary definition of "redskin" clearly calls the word "offensive" racial slang, launched a petition drive to have the name changed.

The Cooperstown administration accepted the petitions and acted. The school nickname was changed to Hawkeyes. But there were costs involved in acquiring a mascot and logo. New uniforms needed to be purchased. Hearing this, the Oneida Nation contributed $10,000 to assist the school in its nickname transition.

"It gave us belief and hope in the younger generation," Halbritter said, and then explained how internal discussions within the Oneida Nation led to an epiphany: If some high school kids could campaign so seriously for a nickname change, why couldn't it be done on a larger stage, as well?

Thus, the decision to buy advertising on radio stations wherever Washington is playing. This weekend, that means the Raiders' flagship station, KGMZ-FM (95.7). The spots feature Halbritter's voice and a clip of Trask's commentary, then ask fans to visit a changethemascot.org website for further information.

Are the advertisements having an effect? Possibly. Halbritter was heartened to hear NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently say on a radio show that "if we are offending even one person" with the Redskins nickname, "we need to be listening" to those who are offended. Yet Halbritter still doesn't see why Goodell and NFL owners even have to question if the nickname is odious and wrong.

"I don't understand," Halbritter said. "Would they actually expect to come over to our house and see our children and say, 'My, what a bunch of cute redskins?' If that's not an acceptable term in casual conversation, why would you use it as a team nickname?"

Well, just because. Ultimately, that's the answer provided by defenders of the word. Dan Snyder, the team's current owner, has said he will "never" change the nickname. Goodell, in a previous statement, even called it "a unifying force." Others cite tradition and claim that the issue is overblown. It's only football, they say. So what?

Halbritter himself acknowledges that his position on the issue has "evolved." As a former ironworker in the nation's capital, he used to shrug off the nickname as cartoon nonsense that didn't really affect his own life.

Then he became a dad.

"As a parent, I saw how this perception can affect who children think they are," said Halbritter, the father of seven. "There are real consequences to this nickname -- and not just bullying in the schoolyard."

Halbritter knows that you can find Native Americans who root for the Redskins and even support the nickname. But he speculates that they just don't want to rock the boat. And for those who think the "Redskins" mascot is overblown and no big deal ... well, that cuts both ways. If it's no big deal to keep the nickname, then it should be no big deal to change it.

Besides, such a move would likely create a financial boon for the league and the franchise itself. Why?

Here's the approximate number of Washington fans who would stop following the team or NFL if the nickname were changed: zero.

And here's the approximate amount of money those fans would spend on buying new merchandise with the new nickname and the new uniforms: millions and millions.

"I think there is a really strong financial argument that it could improve their bottom line," Halbritter said.

Who knows what the new nickname would be? The NFL could probably make money on that too, with a contest or a sweepstakes.

This nation has so many issues that are complicated, in and out of sports. Most have no simple solution. This one does. The NFL front office and owners could set a deadline for Washington to come up with a new nickname, then sit back to accept congratulations and money. Or it could keep promoting a derogatory, racist nickname. Doesn't seem like a tough choice.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.

AL BELLO/GETTY IMAGES

An Indian tribe has purchased a spot on the Raiders radio broadcast in the campaign to change the Redskins mascot.





SUNDAY'S GAME

Washington (0-3)
at Raiders (1-2),
1:25 p.m. FOX


INSIDE

Raiders must stop the run to beat Shanahan, Redskins. PAGE 6


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