For years there has been talk about changing the Washington Redskins name, due to the negative connotation it has. But for the past several months, the pressure has been put on the NFL to come to a consensus about the team’s name.
On May 13, 10 members of Congress sent a letter to Daniel Snyder, owner of the NFL’s Washington, D.C., franchise, urging him to change the name. The members of Congress included the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus Tom Cole (OK) and Betty McCollum (MN), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ), Gwen Moore (WI), Michael M. Honda (CA), Donna M. Christensen (VI), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Barbara Lee (CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), and Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (AS).
Their letter stated that, “Native Americans throughout the country consider the R-word a racially, derogatory slur akin to the N-word among African Americans or the W-word among Latinos. Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw widespread disapproval among the NFL’s fan base. Yet the national coverage of Washington’s NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging to Native Americans”.
It also went on to say:
“The current Chairman and Chief of the Penobscot Nation, Chief Kirk Francis, recently stated in a joint statement that the [R-word] is ‘not just a racial slur or a derogatory term,’ but a painful ‘reminder of one of the most gruesome acts of . . . ethnic cleansing ever committed against the Penobscot people.’ The hunting and killing of Penobscot Indians like animals, as declared by Chief Francis, was ‘a most despicable and disgraceful act of genocide’…
“In this day and age, it is imperative that you uphold your moral responsibility to disavow the usage of racial slurs. The usage of the [R-word] is especially harmful to Native American youth, tending to lower their sense of dignity and self-esteem. It also diminishes feelings of community worth among the Native American tribes and dampens the aspirations of their people.
“We look forward to working with you to find a solution to this important matter.”
A similar letter was also sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, FedEx President and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Smith (FedEx is a sponsor of Snyder’s franchise, and the team plays at FedExField), and the owners of the NFL’s other 31 clubs
This week, in response to the letter, Goodell defended the Washington Redskins’ nickname.
“The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context. For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”
But the members of congress from the May 13th letter aren’t buying it. McCollum (D-Minn.) said Goodell’s letter was “another attempt to justify a racial slur on behalf of Dan Snyder and other NFL owners who appear to be only concerned with earning ever larger profits, even if it means exploiting a racist stereotype of Native Americans.”
Unfortunately these sentiments continue to fall on deaf ears when it comes to team owner, Dan Snyder. This is what he had to say about a name change:
What’s your opinion on the team’s name? Do you think it should be changed?