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Half the Senate just asked the Washington Redskins to change their name

May 22, 2014
On Thursday half of the Senate—fifty members in total—sent a letter to the NFL asking the league to endorse a name change for the Washington Redskins.
Addressed to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the letter said the NFL should follow the NBA’s example in combatting bigotry. The NBA recently banned LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist comments about black and Latino people.
“Today, we urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports,” wrote the senators. “It’s time for the NFL to endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C. football team.”
Redskins owner Dan Snyder has resisted increasingly loud calls for the team to change its name. Commissioner Goodell cited a poll in January showing a majority of Americans support the Redskins keeping their name as justification for the NFL to avoid endorsing a change.
However the Senate’s letter notes that Native Americans themselves dislike the association and want the name changed:
“This is a matter of tribal sovereignty — and Indian Country has spoken clearly on this issue. To this point, we have heard from every national Tribal organization… These organizations have passed resolutions in support of a name change as they find the Washington D.C. football team to be racially offensive.”
Chicago Tribune reports that NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had not yet received the letter, but reiterated its support for the Redskins:
“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 NFL in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently.”
The letter comes two days after tribal leaders asked for action against the t-shirts proliferating on the University of South Dakota campus reading “Siouxper Drunk” with a Native American in headdress funneling beer.
All fifty senators who signed Thursday’s letter were Democrats or independents. It was led by  Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Read the full letter here.
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