A bipartisan pair of lawmakers has written a public letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell demanding that the league he oversees denounce the nickname of the Washington Redskins.
“We are writing to express our disappointment with the National Football League’s stance on the name of the Washington football team,” Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell and Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole explained. “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.”
“Let me remind you that this is a name of a football team, a football team that has had that name for eighty years and has presented the name in a way that has honored Native Americans,” Roger Goodell told a reporter at the referenced event attended by Breitbart Sports late last month. “We recognize that there are some that don’t agree with the name and we have listened and respected that. But if you look at the numbers, including in Native American communities, in a Native American community poll, nine out of ten supported the name. Eight out of ten Americans in the general population would not like us to change the name.”
The two politicians objected to the use of the poll of Native Americans as too dated and addressed the more recent poll of all Americans in an oblique manner. “It is clear that you haven’t heard the leading voices of this country–and not just Indian Country,” Cole and Cantwell said in dismissing Goodell’s polling data showing that eight in ten Americans object to changing the name. “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.”
The Oklahoma and Washington lawmkaers called the nickname a “racial slur” and “offensive,” and referenced the U.S. Patent and Trade Office possibly revoking the team’s trademarks on logos and merchandise.
“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?” asked a Redskins spokesman in a reaction statement. “And given the fact that the name of Oklahoma means ‘Red People’ in Choctaw, this request is a little ironic.”
The Redskins’ name, which stems from its time in Boston sharing Fenway Park with the Red Sox, came about through the popular practice in the fledgling NFL of borrowing team nicknames from the more popular Major League Baseball franchises in the same city. So, after moving a mile from the field of the Boston Braves to the Boston Red Sox, the NFL franchise then known as the Boston Braves changed its name to the Boston Redskins. When the team moved from Boston to Washington in 1937, it retained its Red Sox-derived nickname instead of adopting a local one that surely would have pleased at least Maria Cantwell: the Senators.