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As season starts, Native American tribe launches radio ad against Washington Redskins

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Nose tackle Chris Neild, No. 95, of the Washington Redskins has a quiet moment to himself before playing the Buffalo Bills during a preseason game at FedExField on August 24, 2013 in Landover, Maryland. The Oneida Nation will run radio ads Monday against the team's use of the term 'redskin' prior to their season opener.


As the Washington Redskins prepare to take on the Philadelphia Eagles at the team’s season opener Monday night, an Indian tribe in upstate New York is preparing to take on the Washington Redskins.

The Oneida Nation announced Thursday that they will launch a radio ad campaign pressing for the team to shed a name criticized as offensive. The first ad will run on stations throughout Washington, D.C., Monday before the season opener.

In the ad, Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should "stand up to bigotry" by denouncing "the racial slur" in the team's name.

"We do not deserve to be called 'redskins'," the Oneida leader says in the ad. "We deserve to be treated as what we are — Americans."

The radio ad said Goodell had rightly been critical this summer after an Eagles wide receiver was caught on video making a racial slur against African-Americans.

The ads launches as the Washington Redskins this year face a fresh barrage of criticism over their nickname, with local leaders and pundits calling for a name change. In May, 10 members of Congress sent letters to Redskins owner Dan Snyder and Goodell urging the team to change the name.

Snyder has vowed to never change the name.

Within the past year, numerous sports writers and publications including Mother Jones, Slate and the New Republic have announced that they have enacted policies against using the term 'redskins' in their stories.

Former Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask told Sports Illustrated last month that she believes the name should be abolished.

“It is unacceptable to use a derogatory term when referring to any person or any group of people,” she said.

Native American activist and writer Julian Brave NoiseCat of the Secwepemc Nation told NBC News that he's surprised the name is still around.

“I think that it’s quite remarkable that, in this day and age, racist images of native people are a part of pop culture,” he said.

NoiseCat added that the team’s name is “as bad as it gets.”

American Indian Movement Youth Council Leader Tessa McLean of the Ojibwe Nation agrees with NoiseCat and adds that Indians as sports mascots is yet another consequence of European settlement in the Americas.

“The term (Redskins) is offensive because it is another sad fact of colonization,” she told NBC News. “The dominating society says 'we’re going to take your land, your language and culture and we’re going to determine a mascot for you, and you’re supposed to be okay with it.'”

League spokesman Brian McCarthy, in an email to The Associated Press, said they "respect that reasonable people may have differing views."

"The name from its origin has always intended to be positive and has always been used by the team in a highly respectful manner," McCarthy wrote.

There was no immediate response from the Redskins.

The Oneidas have been vocal opponents of the Redskins nickname — be it for NFL or high school teams. The tribe, which runs a casino and resort in central New York, this year gave $10,000 toward new jerseys to an area high school that changed its nickname from the Redskins to the Hawkeyes.

The Oneida said the first ad will run Sunday and Monday on several stations in Washington. Subsequent ads will run in Washington during home games and in the cities hosting the team when it is away. A spokesman for the Oneidas would not say how much the campaign would cost beyond "multiple thousands."

Halbritter said that fans also are being urged to lobby the NFL in support of the name change at www.changethemascot.org, a website that debuted Thursday.

"We believe that with the help of our fellow professional football fans, we can get the NFL to realize the error of its ways and make a very simple change," Halbritter said in a prepared statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.