The Washington Redskins are changing their name because of its negative connotations, a friend posted on Facebook.
Apparently, the National Football League team will drop the “Washington” and be known simply as the Redskins.
But seriously, folks, check out this Washington Post lede:
Eleven days before the United Church of Christ will vote on a resolution calling for its 22,000 members to boycott the Washington Redskins, a team official called a top minister and asked him to speak to three Native Americans who support the controversial name.
Does anything about that opening sentence strike you as a little off? How about the 22,000 members? I mean, I knew that mainline denominations had shrunk in recent decades, but the last time I checked, the United Church of Christ had almost 1 million members across the U.S.
Alas, since the Post functions often as a national newspaper, I assumed that the figure related to the national denomination. Wrong.
The Rev. John R. Deckenback, who oversees churches and clergy in the Mid-Atlantic region, said he received a call Tuesday morning from the team’s chief financial officer, Karl Schreiber, who put the men, all from the Blackfeet Nation, on the phone. One after another, the men explained why the name was an honor and not the racial slur described by other Native American leaders and civil rights groups, Deckenback said.One of the men, who identified himself as Donald Wetzel Sr., spoke about how his father had designed the team’s logo, Deckenback said.
The phone call came after an invitation was sent to team owner Daniel Snyder to appear at the annual meeting next week of the denomination’s Central Atlantic Conference, where a June 14 vote is scheduled on a resolution that would affect 180 congregations from Richmond to New Jersey.
The resolution calls for the members of the liberal denomination 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.”
A previous story — published three months ago — does a better job of making clear up high that the proposed resolution involves a regional conference.
Neither story does a great job of explaining why a religious body feels the need to get involved in this particular dispute.
Also missing: any context on the 22,000 Mid-Atlantic members’ overall influence among the region’s people of faith and any details on what stands, if any, other religious groups in the D.C. area have taken on the Redskins name.