(USA TODAY) - The Oneida Indian Nation met with human rights representatives of the United Nations in New York Friday afternoon to discuss the Washington NFL club's team name.
"During today's meeting we discussed the incredibly constructive role that the U.N. has played globally in combating racism in sports," Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter said. "We discussed the hope that Washington's team might take the concrete step of eliminating the continued usage of the R-word epithet as a sign of their commitment to opposing racism and discrimination, rather than continuing to profit from the offensive brand."
Halbritter and Oneida spokesman Joel Barkin met for about 45 minutes with Ivan Simonovic, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, and U.N. human rights officer Giorgia Passarelli.
"Simonovic expressed his commitment to continue a dialogue on this issue," Halbritter said, "and to identity additional avenues within the United Nations human rights system to further investigate this issue."
Washington team spokesman Tony Wyllie said: "Given all the wars around the world, starvation, famine and the nuclear proliferation problems the U.N. is dealing with, surely they have more important things to worry about than a football's team name that is supported by the vast majority of the American people."
Barkin said discussions centered on issues facing indigenous communities, the Washington mascot issue and the role that the U.N. has played in helping FIFA try to eliminate racism in soccer.
The meeting came just days before the NFL gathers in New York and neighboring New Jersey next week for a series of celebratory events in advance of the Super Bowl on Feb. 2. The NFL declined comment on the U.N. meeting.
The U.N.'s Human Rights Council describes itself online as an inter-governmental body within the U.N. system, responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.
"The Human Rights Council has appointed a dedicated independent expert to look into the issue of business and human rights," Passarelli said by email. "This particular case could be of interest to a number of U.N. human rights mechanisms, including … the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur on Racism, Xenophobia and Racial Discrimination.
"Also, beside the Human Rights Council, the matter is relevant in the context of the work that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been doing on the issue of racism in sports."
Last month, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of civil rights groups including the NAACP, passed a resolution urging owner Daniel Snyder to change his team's name.
Snyder called the term Redskins "a badge of honor" in an open letter to his team's fans in October and told USA TODAY Sports in May that he will never change it.