Native American Groups Ask Goodell to Force Washington NFL Team to Change Name

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2020

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 29: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media during a press conference prior to Super Bowl LIV at the Hilton Miami Downtown on January 29, 2020 in Miami, Florida. The San Francisco 49ers will face the Kansas City Chiefs in the 54th playing of the Super Bowl, Sunday February 2nd. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Several Native American groups sent a joint letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday calling for him to force the Washington NFL franchise to change its nickname.

According to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), 15 Native American leaders and organizations co-signed the letter, which referred to Washington's team name as "dictionary defined racial slur."

Mary Emily O'Hara of AdWeek.com published the letter received by Goodell on Monday. In the letter, the Native American leaders made several requests, including an immediate name change.

Part of the letter read as follows:

"Specifically, we, the undersigned, request that the NFL immediately:

"Require the Washington NFL team (Owner- Dan Snyder) to immediately change the name R*dsk*ns, a dictionary defined racial slur for Native Peoples.

"Require the Washington team to immediately cease the use of racialized Native American branding by eliminating any and all imagery of or evocative of Native American culture, traditions, and spirituality from their team franchise including the logo. This includes the use of Native terms, feathers, arrows, or monikers that assume the presence of Native American culture, as well as any characterization of any physical attributes."

Later in the letter, the Native American leaders outlined several other requests as well, including suggestions for how Washington's current nickname should be referred to moving forward:

"Cease the use of the offensive, racial slur name 'R*dsk*ns' immediately, and encourage journalists, writers and reporters to use the term in print only by using asterisks 'R*dsk*ns' and to refer to the term verbally as the 'r-word.'

"Ban all use of Native imagery, names, slur names, redface, appropriation of Native culture and spiritually as well as violence toward Native Peoples from the League.

"Apply the NFL's 'zero tolerance' for on-field use of racial and homophobic slurs to all races and ethnic groups, especially Native Peoples.

"Complete a full rebranding of the Washington team name, logo, mascot, and color scheme, to ensure that continuing harm is not perpetuated by anyone."

Native American groups have long called for Washington to change its name because of its racist nature, but there has been an even stronger push recently after the spotlight on racial inequality in the United States over the past several weeks.

The killing of 46-year-old Black man George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 resulted in protests against racial injustice across the United States and elsewhere, and those protests have played a role in the elimination of racist symbols and imagery in various forms.

Last week, the Washington NFL franchise released a statement in which it promised a "thorough review" of the team's name:

Washington Redskins @Redskins


NFL Network's Ian Rapoport later reported that a name change is "likely" given the pressure that is mounting to do so. New Washington head coach Ron Rivera said last week that he and owner Daniel Snyder were discussing possible new names for the franchise.

Nike also removed Washington merchandise from its website and FedEx—the sponsor for Washington's stadium—called for a name change.

Washington's NFL team has had the same nickname for its entire tenure in D.C., which began in 1937.

The Native American leaders concluded their letter to Goodell by writing that their terms are "non-negotiable" and expressing their expectation that the NFL will "engage in a robust, meaningful reconciliation process with Native American movement leaders, tribes, and organizations to repair the decades of emotional violence and other serious harms this racist team name has caused to Native Peoples."