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Recently, efforts have been growing to urge the Washington Redskins to change their name due to the offensive connotations it carries toward Native Americans. We have covered the issue extensively, from trademark battles to growing outrage. President Obama, lawmakers, civil rights groups, and tribal organizations have expressed their endorsement of a name change. Furthermore, the trademark itself has been challenged as being disparaging and offensive to Native Americans. With the Redskins being one of the most valuable NFL franchises, worth near $2 billion, a lot is at stake for both the league and Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder.
On Thursday, politicians took another step by sending a letter signed by fifty Senators to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, asking the NFL to officially take the position of forcing the Redskins to change their name. The letter was circulated by Senator Maria Cantwell (WA-D), and endorsed by Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. The Senators used the recent racist comments of Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers owner, as a platform to approach this issue of racism in professional sports. They praised the NBA’s swift action against Sterling, banning him from the league, and urged the NFL to follow suit and not support what they consider “racial slurs”. In the letter, Senators state “we urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports.” Furthermore, they discuss how sports have a great influence over the country, and thus leagues should set an example by enforcing equality and diversity within their organizations.
The NFL has responded so far with a statement that they fully support diversity within their league, however, the name “Redskins” is meant to be respectful and positive and not intended to be used in a racial context. Their position on the issue has always been against changing the name because they believe it is a strong representation of the Native American community and not a racial slur in any way. The franchise has used the name Redskins since 1933, and the owner, Dan Snyder, has remained steadfast in his position against changing the name. Still, Native American tribes and councils from around the country are strongly against the name, finding it offensive.
Snyder may own the franchise and the right to keep the team name right now, however, with the right amount of pressure it is possible Snyder and the NFL might soon have to take a new course of action.
– Brittany Burnham
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