50 Senators Urge NFL to Change Washington Redskins' Name

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2014

AP Images

Updates from Saturday, May 24

Redskins president Bruce Allen responded to the senators' request Saturday in a letter directed to the man spearheading the campaign, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. 

Chuck Carroll of CBS DC highlighted two noteworthy passages:

More than a decade ago one of the foremost scholars of Native American languages, Smithsonian Institution senior linguist Ives Goddard, spent seven months researching the subject and concluded that the word ‘redskin’ originated as a Native American expression of solidarity by multi-tribal delegations that traveled to Washington to negotiate Native American national policies. ...

... The highly respected Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania surveyed Native Americans nationally and reported that an overwhelming 90% of respondents said the name was not offensive. More importantly, Native Americans continue to embrace and use the name and logo.


Original Text

An effort aimed at getting the Washington Redskins to change their name picked up more support on Thursday as 50 members of the United States Senate signed a letter sent to the NFL urging the league to force a switch.

Carl Hulse and Elena Schneider of The New York Times report the senators used the recent punishment of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racist remarks as the basis for their argument. They state the name is viewed as offensive in the Native American community.

The report notes majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada was among those who signed the letter. He commented about the name, noting how it affects those in his own state.

"I have 22 tribal organizations in Nevada," Reid said. "They are not mascots. They are human beings. And this term Redskins is offensive to them."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league hadn't yet received the letter, but he provided a response in line with what the league has continued to say amid the controversy:

[The league] has long demonstrated a commitment to progressive leadership on issues of diversity and inclusion, both on and off the field.

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 letter concludes the NFL should act quickly to eliminate the racial element from its league as the NBA is attempting to do with Sterling.

The league responded to the letter on Thursday, according to SportsCenter:

Ultimately, it's unclear how much longer the NFL will be able to ignore the growing calls to alter the team's nickname. The league has shown no signs of forcing owner Daniel Snyder to make a change despite criticism.

In fact, Snyder said in late April that the name is "not an issue," according to the Associated Press. "The real issues are real-life issues, real-life needs, and I think it's time that people focus on reality," he said.

However, there are those who disagree. Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter responded to Snyder's comments in a press release via Pro Football Talk, saying:

If Dan Snyder thinks it is acceptable for a billionaire to market, promote, and profit off of a dictionary defined racial slur, then he's living in an alternate universe. If he wants to focus on reality, here's a reality check: The longer he insists on slurring Native Americans, the more damage he will keep doing to Native American communities, and the more he will become synonymous with infamous segregationist George Preston Marshall, who originally gave the team this offensive name.

Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk believes it's only a matter of time before the name changes:

The biggest factor in play should be the feelings of Native Americans. If a majority believe the name is offensive and should be changed, it should be a no-brainer for the league.

Perhaps the letter from the Senate will put enough pressure on the NFL to at least take a longer look at the issue, which seemingly isn't going away. If the calls for change continue to grow louder and the team itself doesn't act, it could leave the league no choice but to step in.