In an unprecedented move in the fight to end the use of the Washington Redskins nickname, several Native American groups on Tuesday will send a letter to every individual owner of an National Football League team, asking each to renounce the name.
On Tuesday, in addition to sending the letter to owners, the Oneida Nation and the National Congress of American Indians will be joined at a press conference by the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, members of congress and about 30 to 40 Native American leaders, according to a person familiar with plans.
What the letter to the owners represents, more than anything, is an escalation of pressure on the NFL, at a time when the league is reeling from a number of scandals, including the Ray Rice domestic violence case and the Adrian Peterson child abuse indictment.
This is the first time any group has contacted every owner in the sport to protest the nickname.
The letter, obtained by Bleacher Report, makes two significant points. It discusses that the NFL enjoys tax-exempt status, a fact that has been pointed out by other critics of the NFL recently during what was one of the toughest weeks in the history of the sport because of the Rice and Peterson cases.
The letter, authored by Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, and the National Congress of Americans President Brian Cladoosby, also frames the decision to use the nickname as an issue of morality:
"The NFL today confronts a rising tide of questions about its behavior—from the questions raised by former players facing health problems to questions about the league's attitude toward domestic violence," the letter says. "Out of all these serious moral questions, the ones about the Washington team’s name should be the simplest for the league to answer. If owners like you finally stand on the right side of history and publicly demand action, the NFL can and will change the team’s name. If the league continues to expect Congress to grant it and its teams special status, the least the American people should be able to expect is a league that refrains from promoting a racial slur against Native Americans."
The letter begins by highlighting the league's "special responsibilities": "As one of the 31 owners of the National Football League, you are part of an institution that has been granted special tax and regulatory treatment by the United States government. Such privileges, however, come with special responsibilities—one of them being to play a constructive role against prejudice and for equality.
"With that in mind, we are writing today to request that you use your position of authority in the NFL to put an end to the league's promotion of a dictionary-defined racial slur as the Washington franchise's name."
The letter adds: "Under the league's bylaws, the league is empowered to initiate disciplinary action against any 'owner, shareholder, partner or holder of an interest in a member club (who) is guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the League or professional football.' Clearly, Washington team owner Dan Snyder's continued promotion of this racial slur represents such conduct. This is evident in the recent news that a majority of Washington, D.C. residents now oppose the name, and it is evident in the news that sales of Washington team merchandise is plummeting.
"Put simply, in a country and sports fan base that is becoming ever more diverse, Mr. Snyder is jeopardizing the welfare of the league by promoting an epithet against people of color."
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.