On the heels of the new National Football League season which kicks off Thursday night, a tribe in upstate New York is ratcheting up pressure against the league and the Washington Redskins to get the team to change its nickname, which is often criticized as offensive to American Indians.
The Oneida Indian Nation, which has approximately 1,000 enrolled members, will launch a radio ad campaign in which 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 first ad will run on radio stations in Washington before the team hosts the Philadelphia Eagles in its season opener Monday night.
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 ads launch 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, however, has vowed to never do so.
The NFL responded to the ad campaign by saying the league respected the tribe's views, but did not indicate any intention to heed the call to change Washington's team name.
"We 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," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in an email to Al Jazeera.
There was no immediate response on the ad campaign from the Redskins.
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 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" of dollars.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press