Congressmen Send Letter to Roger Goodell Requesting Change of 'Redskins' Name

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIFebruary 10, 2014

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 06:  A Washington Redskins flag is waved prior to the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Seattle Seahawks at FedExField on January 6, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins' mascot name has not led to a change as of yet, but the debate is ongoing and now congressmen in the nation's capital are getting involved.

As reported by The Washington Post, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Representative Tom Cole (R-Okla.) submitted a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday requesting that the Redskins name be changed.

The beginning of the letter opens with the members of Congress criticizing Goodell when he defended the mascot name at a Super Bowl XLVIII press conference and called for immediate action:

We are writing to express our disappointment with the National Football League's stance on the name of the Washington football team. We also wish to register our objections to your pre-Super Bowl press conference on January 31, 2014, at which you defended the Washington team name as an "honor" to Native Americans. It is, in fact, an insult to Native Americans. We are calling on you and the National Football League to take a formal position in support of a name change.

One strong point that Cantwell and Cole bring up is that the Patent and Trademark Office, as of Dec. 29, 2013, have labeled the term used to describe Washington’s football team as a “derogatory slang.”

Even President Obama weighed in on the issue in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press from October 2013:

The letter goes on to accuse the league of not heeding enough attention to the organizations speaking out on the issue, as "Redskins" is considered offensive to American Indians:

The National Football League can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur. It is clear that you haven't heard the leading voices of this country -- and not just Indian Country. Virtually every major civil rights organization in America has spoken out in opposition to this name including the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, the Rainbow Coalition and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

According to's John Keim, the Washington football team has received 7,000 letters of support for the mascot name—200 of which have come from Native Americans, per a statement released by the team on Monday:

The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg notes that the team has received seven such letters in opposition of the name:

Another official statement from Dec. 13, 2013, was in response to the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Along with two testimonies from Native Americans supporting the Redskins name, it also included a justification for retaining the franchise's storied tradition:

The Washington Redskins hold these civil rights leaders in high regard, but we respectfully believe they are mischaracterizing decades of honor and respect toward America's Indian heritage that our name represents for generations of Redskin fans and Native Americans alike. 

We understand these leaders hold their views deeply, but so do hundreds and hundreds of Native Americans who have written to us expressing an opposite point of view.

Whether it's a mischaracterization or not is a matter of opinion, but this is clearly a polarizing issue that is not going away.

Opponents of the Washington mascot appear to believe there's a consensus to make a change, while its traditionalists are convinced that football history and the intent behind the nickname outweigh any offense others may take with it. Both sides obviously feel strongly about the matter.

When the U.S. government gets involved in pushing for a professional sports organization to choose an alternative name, it's going to magnify the issue even more.