Two members of Congress have written a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell theatening the league’s tax-exempt status while seeking support for changing the nickname of the Washington Redskins.
“The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,” according to the letter from Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., which was obtained by the New York Times and other media.
Cantwell is chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affair. Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, is co-chairman of the Congressional Native American Causcus.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has said he will never change the nickname, which the team has used since 1933. He recently wrote a letter to fans about the values, traditions and pride associated with the Redskins name.
Cantwell and Cole wrote in their letter that the NFL is on the “wrong side of history.”
“It is not appropriate for this multibillion-dollar 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization to perpetuate and profit from the continued degradation of tribes and Indian people,” the letter said.
The NFL said it would not comment until receiving the letter.
Goodell, during Super Bowl week, seemed to stand by Snyder’s decision but added the league is “listening and being respectful for people who disagree.”
“This is the name of a football team, a football team that’s had that name for 80 years and has presented the name in a way that it has honored Native Americans,” Goodell said.
Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie took issue with the letter.
“With all the important issues Congress has to deal with, such as a war in Afghanistan to deficits to health care, don’t they have more important issues to worry about than a football team’s name?” Wyllie wrote in an email to the New York Times. “And given the fact that the name of Oklahoma means ‘red people’ in Choctaw, this request is a little ironic.”
Ten members of Congress sent a similar letter to Goodell in May after introducing a bill that would require the director of the Patent and Trademark Office to cancel any registration that used the term “redskin” in reference to Native Americans for commercial purposes.
President Barack Obama has also said that if he were the team owner he would consider a change.