PSU roundtable discusses Washington mascot change

Most people tend to have a tender spot for and are very protective of children.

When their self-esteem is damaged, it can trigger something deep within many, especially their parents.

That is why Ray Halbritter has decided to fight against the use of a racial slur for the name for the Washington football team.

More than 100 people attended the hour-long event as Halbritter, of the Oneida Nation and a leader in the Change the Mascot campaign, and Mike Wise, a sports columnist and feature writer for the Washington Post, spoke at “A Conversation

About Nicknames or Not,” last night in the John Bill Freeman Auditorium as part of a public session coordinated by the Penn State John Curley Center for Sports Journalism.

The “r-word” name was not used all night.

Representatives from the D.C. team were invited to participate, but did not attend, according to moderator and professor in communications, John Affleck, who invited representatives over the summer.

Seated in big chairs on a brightly lit stage in front of the audience, Halbritter and Wise shared their opinions and their experiences with the issue.

“I was always a fan of the Washington team, but as I became a parent and a leader of my people, I evolved, like a lot of people,” said Halbritter, who is a football fan, and sponsors the Buffalo Bills. “I didn’t think much about it, it wasn’t an issue for me until I began to realize the incredible significance.”

It’s one thing to call an adult a hurtful name, Halbritter said, but it’s another thing entirely for children.

The “r-word,” as Wise and Halbritter kept saying, is historically offensive, and defined as a racial slur in every major English dictionary.

Furthermore, Halbritter and Wise emphasized there is scientific proof that the mascot and team name have negative harm on children.

Wise, who also contributes regularly to CNN, MSNBC and ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” and an advocate for changing the team name, shared the pivotal moment in his life when he realized that the name must be changed.

Wise recounted watching a protest of about 800 native Americans, including mothers and childrens, in truck beds holding signs in Minnesota.

Wise, who acknowledged that football is practically a religion in many American households, felt unhappy watching as two little boys hid the logos on their caps in shame, not old enough to know what they had done wrong.

When Wise approached a woman in the protest and mentioned his remorse for the little boys who didn’t know any better, her response to him stuck.

“Don’t feel bad for them,” Wise said, remembering what the woman protesting said to him. “Now they know how our children feel.”

Audience member Jeff Jezewski, a junior at Penn State in broadcast journalism said that the event was eye opening, and a name change is definitely needed.

“Anything that’s offensive to a large group of people shouldn’t be a mascot,” Jezewski said.

Kevin Alonzo, a senior at Penn State also studying broadcast journalism thought the conversation brought up some good points.

The fact that kids have a negative response to the name is powerful, according to Alonzo.

“Spread that message and maybe we’ll see change,” Alonzo said.

As for a new name, Halbritter said he would like the team name to be anything but a racial slur. Wise responded with how easily the team name can be changed to honor the armed services, but the team won’t budge.

“I don’t get it,” Wise said.