The next presidential election is still 22 months away, but Washington-area residents are about to get blitzed with thousands of automated phone calls on behalf of a political cause anyway. The Oneida Indian Nation, a New York tribe, is sponsoring a wave of robo-calls urging locals to support their push to get Washington’s NFL team to change its name.
The minute-long call features the voices of two self-professed Washington fans, Ian Washburn and Josh Silver, asking their fellow burgundy-and-gold supporters to join them in demanding top-to-bottom changes at the woeful football team, which just put fans through an embarrassing 4-12 season.
“After missing the playoffs again, it’s clear things need to change—including our team’s name,” Washburn says.
Says Silver: “Native American tribes, national civil rights organizations, and elected officials from both parties agree. We represent America’s capital; and it’s time we demonstrate our commitment to the ideals of equality and civility.”
While the Oneidas launched their campaign against the Washington team and owner Dan Snyder before the 2013 season, the effort has failed to get much traction beyond the support of various elected officials who, no matter how high-ranking, do not have much influence over professional football. But the robo-call might renew the Oneidas’ campaign in asking people to contact Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s new vice president of social responsibility, about the Washington team’s name.
A poll released last November, also sponsored by the Oneida nation, found that while four out of five people agree it would be offensive to call a Native American a “redskin,” 72 percent believe the term is acceptable as the name of a sports team, a split the pollsters attributed to “fan blindness.” A flood of 10,000 robo-calls, which Oneida spokesman Joel Barkin tells Washingtonian is just the first round, is aimed at lowering fans’ blinds.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.