Over the weekend, a couple of random Washington players tweeted approval of president/G.M. Bruce Allen’s response to Senator Harry Reid regarding a 50-Senator letter opposing the team name. Now, more than 50 Native American and civil rights groups are urging all other players to take a stand in opposition to the name.
In a letter dated Wednesday but released to the media today, more than 75 different organizations have asked NFL players to speak out against the team’s name. The letter comes less than a week after NFLPA president Eric Winston explained on PFT Live that the players union doesn’t plan to get in the middle of the lingering controversy.
“Despite team officials claiming the name ‘honors’ Native Americans, the ‘R-word’ does exactly the opposite,” the letter states. “It was the word screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands, it is the word for the object needed to collect a bounty—literally ‘red skins’—ripped from dead Native American bodies and exchanged for money as proof of kill, and it is a term that still denigrates Native Americans today. The name does not honor people of color, instead it seeks to conceal a horrible segment of American history and the countless atrocities suffered by Native Americans.”
The list of organizations sending the letter includes the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and many Native American groups.
“Over and over again, defenders of the name demand to know why advocates for changing the name do not spend time on any of the other critical issues facing Indian Country,” the letter states. “The fact is, this is a critical issue. According to psychologists and public health experts, the NFL’s promotion of this term continues to do great psychological harm to Native Americans, and particularly Native American children. With the NFL spending billions of dollars a year promoting this slur on television and in merchandise across the globe, these children are being constantly told they are savages who should be primarily judged on the basis of their skin color.”
And so the debate will continue to rage and intensify, until the name changes. The broader question for the NFL continues to be whether it wants the debate to continue, or whether it wants to move on from an issue that the organization owned by Daniel Snyder feels destined to eventually lose.
Regardless of the team’s various self-serving arguments for keeping the name it’s had for eight decades, it’s time for Commissioner Roger Goodell and influential owners like Robert Kraft, Dan Rooney, and Jerry Jones to find a way to help Snyder find his way out of the maze into which questionable P.R. tactics over the last year have placed him. Actually, that effort is overdue. With each passing day, more and more people realize it.