LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — Two lawmakers critical of the Washington Redskins team name have sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging him to call on the franchise to stop using its nickname and to take a formal position against its continued use.
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) say the term ‘Redskins’ is offensive and derogatory. Cantwell is the Chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee while Cole serves in the House Native American Caucus.
In response, a Redskins spokesperson told the Washington Post that lawmakers have bigger problems to deal with than the franchise nickname.
“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,” said spokesperson Tony Wyllie.
In a press release Monday morning, the Redskins say owner Daniel Snyder received more than 7,000 letters in favor of the team’s name. According to the team, nearly 200 of the letters came from people claiming to be Native Americans.
The unsolicited letters were received in response to an open letter published by Snyder last fall.
A Native American tribe that has leading public efforts to attempt to get the Washington Redskins to change their name is applauding Cantwell and Cole’s efforts.
“The NFL is a publicly subsidized $9 billion-a-year brand with global reach, and it is using those public resources and that brand to promote a dictionary defined racial slur,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter. “While the Washington team somehow claims that Congress has better things to do than intervene in a serious issue that involves taxpayer dollars, it is the exact opposite: Congress has a responsibility to the American people to put an end to this kind of taxpayer-subsidized bigotry. We are thrilled to have these congressional leaders from both parties speaking out on behalf of the ‘Change the Mascot’ campaign and urge them to take immediate action to prevent the league from using any more public resources to promote hatred against Native Americans.”