The Washington Redskins nickname is coming under fire, as 10 members of the U.S. Congress have begun a campaign to have it changed to something they deem less offensive.
According to the Associated Press in an article on ESPN.com, the lawmakers have drafted a letter that states: “Native Americans throughout the country consider the 'R-word' a racial, derogatory slur akin to the 'N-word' among African Americans or the 'W-word' among Latinos.”
This collection of state representatives has sent copies of the letter to team owner Daniel Snyder, league commissioner Roger Goodell, FedEx—major sponsor of the Redskins—and the other 31 franchises in the NFL.
This certainly isn’t the first time that a group has challenged the Redskins, and some have even resorted to legal recourse in their attempt to get the nickname changed.
In 1992, Suzan Shown Harjo took the team to court on the grounds of illegal trademarks, but was ultimately rejected on the basis of laches, which means Native Americans had untimely delayed the pursuit of their rights.
There’s an ongoing suit—Blackhorse et al v. Pro Football, Inc.—that is once again challenging the trademark and attempting to have it canceled. The results are pending in court, and it’s unknown if this latest campaign by members of congress will have an impact.
Now that the 10 members of congress have brought these matters to the attention of NFL fans everywhere, it’s time to take a look at the latest buzz on the issue.
Chief Robert “Two Eagles” Green joined SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday morning to talk at length about the topic and noted that he would be more offended if the Redskins changed their name than kept it:
Amazing spot with Chief Robert "Two Eagles" Green. In his eyes changing the name "Redskins" would be more offensive than the name itself— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) May 29, 2013
The complete audio of his interview can be found here.
Mike Jones of The Washington Post released the names of the 10 representatives who signed the letter:
[The news release came from the office of] Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, congressman for the American Samoa.
Joining Faleomavaega in the effort were fellow representatives and co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus: Tom Cole (Oklahoma) and Betty McCollum(Minnesota) as well as Raul M. Grijalva (Arizona), Gwen Moore (Wisconsin), Michael M. Honda (California), Donna M. Christensen (Virginia Islands), Zoe Lofgren and Barbara Lee (both of California) and Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District.
Dan Snyder made it clear, per Erik Brady of USA Today, in early May that he’s not going to change his team’s name, regardless of pressure from congress:
We will never change the name of the team. As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it's all about and what it means, so we feel pretty fortunate to be just working on next season…
We'll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.
Last month, D.C. Councilman David Grosso preceded Snyder's rant with the idea that, as per Eric P. Newcomer of The Washington Examiner, the team should just switch nicknames to the Washington Redtails:
We have to change it, and I'm calling on Dan Snyder and the NFL to step up and do the right thing. I just don't want it to be the racist, derogatory name that they've been using for all this time.
[Redtails] is just a suggestion. I just don't want it to be offensive, and at the end, what I'd love to call them is world champions.
Should the Redskins change their name?
While Grosso’s suggestion isn’t terrible, it doesn’t seem to be the solution that Snyder is looking for. Expect to hear more about this in the near future, as both the court case and congress members continue to raise the profile of a potential name change for the Washington Redskins.