Tribal Leaders Thank Obama for Redskins Comments

By Julie Pace
|  Tuesday, Nov 12, 2013  |  Updated 8:15 PM EDT
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Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Nation thanked President Obama for speaking out against the Redskins name.

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Native American leaders used a meeting at the White House on Tuesday to thank President Barack Obama for wading into the controversy over the Washington Redskins team name and voicing his concern that the nickname was offensive.

Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Nation, which has led efforts to get the National Football League team to change its name, thanked the president for speaking out. Other tribal leaders responded with applause during the meeting in the Roosevelt Room.

Obama's meeting with tribal leaders was closed to reporters. The developments were described by a tribal representative familiar with the meeting. The person was not authorized to discuss the private talks by name and insisted on anonymity.

In an October interview with The Associated Press, Obama said that if he owned the Redskins he would consider changing the name. He said that while fans get attached to nicknames, nostalgia isn't a good enough reason to keep a name that offends "a sizable group of people.''

"I don't know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things,'' Obama said in the interview.

The president's comments sparked increased debate over the controversy and won him praise from Native American groups.

Halbritter brought with him to the White House a gift for the president: an athletic jersey bearing Obama's name from a high school in Cooperstown, N.Y. The school board voted earlier this year to change its sports nickname from Redskins to Hawkeyes after students complained that the old name was offensive.

The Oneida Nation helped the Upstate New York school pay for the new jerseys.

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