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Indian Tribe Offers to Pay for Redskins Name Change, But Not in Washington

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credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (CBSDC/AP) — One American Indian tribe so offended by the name Redskins, they’re willing to pay to have it changed . . . just not the team in Washington.

The Oneida Indians say they would help buy replacement school sports jerseys if the Cooperstown Redskins change their nickname.

Students of the combined middle and high school in this picturesque village 150 miles north of New York City voted this month on names to replace the Redskins nickname that goes back to the 1920s. The vote was prompted by students who found the nickname offensive to American Indians.

“You have announced a standard that recognizes that mascots which are known to dehumanize and disrespect any race of mankind have no place in our schools, or our great country,” Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter wrote to Cooperstown Central School students this week. “We understand that your courageous decision also comes with a financial consequence and, unfortunately, potential backlash from those who somehow claim that ethnic stereotyping is a victimless crime.”

Cooperstown is best known as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, but it was also the hometown of James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote “The Last of the Mohicans.” The top vote-getters among students for a new nickname include Deerslayers, Hawkeyes and Pathfinders — each name a nod to Cooper’s works.

The Oneida Indian Nation, whose current territory is about 50 miles northwest of Cooperstown, would be honored to help buy the district new athletic jerseys, Halbritter said. He added that the tribe also would help set up a fund for other schools that get rid of ethnically insensitive mascots.

The local school board is seeking input from the community before it makes a final decision. District superintendent C.J. Hebert said a name change would cost $5,000 to $10,000, and they would take the Oneidas up on their offer.

Hundreds of high school and college teams nationwide have retired Native American nicknames, though many student and professional teams retain them. The NFL’s Washington Redskins nickname continues to attract controversy. Washington Mayor Vincent Gray specifically avoided saying the nickname in his State of the District speech this month, referring only to “our Washington football team.”

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(TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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