At his press conference before Super Bowl XLVIII, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated the NFL’s stance that they are “listening and being respectful for people who disagree” with the use of the name Redskins but that the team presents “the name in a way that honors Native Americans.”
Two members of Congress disagree with Goodell on that point and plan to send a letter to the commissioner to express their views and urge him to change his stance on the issue. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee, and Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), a member of the Native American Caucus, are joining forces on the letter.
“The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,” Cantwell and Cole wrote, via the New York Times. “The National Football League 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.”
Cantwell also said she would “definitely” look into ways including a look into the league’s tax-exempt status to press for a change, something other members of Congress have done by pushing a bill that would require the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office to cancel any registration that used the term “redskin” in reference to Native Americans for commercial purposes. The same office rejected a trademark application from “Redskins Hog Rinds” on the basis of the word Redskins being offensive late last year.
An NFL spokesman said the league has not received the letter and won’t have a comment. Redskins spokesman Tony Wylie did offer a response from the team.
“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? And given the fact that the name of Oklahoma means ‘red people’ in Choctaw, this request is a little ironic,” Wylie wrote in an email to the Times.
At this point, there’s no reason to think this will be more successful than other attempts to get the Redskins to change their name. Team owner Dan Snyder has been steadfast in his vows to keep the name in place and it seems unlikely that anything short of the NFL changing their view will get Snyder to change his.