Group of 50 senators calls on Washington Redskins to change team name
Half the U.S. Senate wrote letters to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Thursday, saying the team name is a racist slur and that it is time to replace it
By Dan Friedman | NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
WASHINGTON — Half the U.S. Senate wrote the National Football League commissioner Tuesday, urging him to support changing the name of the Washington Redskins.
“The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,” the lawmakers told Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The letter-writers included Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, where the team plays.
In their letters, the lawmakers followed the practice, adopted by some newspapers, of refusing to use the team’s name.
“The Washington, D.C. football team is on the wrong side of history,” the senators wrote. “What message does it send to punish slurs against African Americans while endorsing slurs against Native Americans?
They urged the NFL to follow the example of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who reacted swiftly to racially offensive comments by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling by banning him for life.
A “national conversation on race” created by Sterling’s remarks “is an opportunity for the NFL to take action to remove the racial slur from the name of one of its marquee franchises,” they said.
The letters also pointed out that every national tribal organization in the U.S., representing two million Native American people, has now formally requested the name change.
“Yet every Sunday during football season, the Washington, D.C. football team mocks their culture,” the senators wrote.
In a prepared statement, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy politely rejected the request.
The league “has long demonstrated a commitment to progressive leadership on issues of diversity and inclusion, both on and off the field,” McCarthy said.
“The intent of the team’s name has always been to present a strong, positive and respectful image. The name is not used by the team or the N.F.L. in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently.”
The team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, has vowed to keep the team’s name, part of a brand he has spent millions of dollars to promote.
“We understand the issues out there, and we’re not an issue,” Snyder said last month. “The real issues are real-life issues, real-life needs, and I think it’s time that people focus on reality.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington state Democrat, organized the letter-writing campaign.
Forty-nine of the Democratic senators wrote identical letters to Goodell, and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) wrote his own letter.
The five Democrats who did not join the effort all represent states with large numbers of conservative voters: Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
Cantwell did not ask Republican senators to take part in the campaign.
President Obama said last October that if he owned the Redskins, he would consider changing the team’s name.