WASHINGTON (AP) — Half the U.S. Senate urged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday to change the Washington Redskins’ name, saying it is a racist slur and the time is ripe to replace it.
In one letter, 49 senators cited the NBA’s quick action recently to ban Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life after he was heard on an audio recording making offensive comments about blacks. They said Goodell should formally push to rename the Redskins.
“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,” read the letter, which did not use the word “Redskins.”
Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, wrote his own letter saying he doesn’t believe that retaining the Redskin name “is appropriate in this day and age.” He described himself as “one of your great fans for both the game and you personally.”
The letters come at a time of growing pressure to change the team name, with statements in recent months from President Barack Obama, lawmakers of both parties and civil rights groups.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has refused to change the name, citing tradition. The franchise has been known as the Redskins since 1933, when it played in Boston.
Last month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took to the Senate floor to say Snyder should “do what is morally right” and change the name. Thursday’s letters were aimed directly at Goodell.
In a written response, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said “diversity and inclusion” have long been a focus of the NFL.
“The intent of the team’s name has always been to present a strong, positive and respectful image,” McCarthy said. “The name is not used by the team or the NFL in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently.”
Reid and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., led the letter-writing effort. All senators on the letter are Democrats. Cantwell spokesman Jared Leopold said Republicans were not asked to participate.
Cantwell later said on the Senate floor that she was inviting Republicans to sign the letter or write their own.
“I’m convinced that if each member of this body speaks on this issue and is forceful in their resolve, that we can help initiate change,” she said.
Democrats not signing the letter were Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of nearby Virginia, where the team’s headquarters are; Mark Pryor of Arkansas, in a tight re-election race this year; and Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, two of their party’s more moderate lawmakers.
The senators noted that tribal organizations representing more than 2 million Native Americans across the U.S. have said they want the Redskins name dropped.
Despite federal laws protecting their identity, “Every Sunday during football season, the Washington, D.C., football team mocks their culture,” they wrote.
“The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,” the letter said.
Celebrity NFL Fans
1. 1. Dwyane Wade also is a Chicago Bears fan, pictured here with the Chicago Bliss.1 of 25
2. 2. T.I. loves the Atlanta Falcons (Photo: AP)2 of 25
3. 3. Drake's favorite team is also the Atlanta Falcons. (Photo: AP)3 of 25
4. 4. Kenan Thompson also is a fan of the Falcons (Photo: PR Photos)4 of 25
5. 5. Brian McKnight is a Buffalo Bills fan. (Photo: PR Photos)5 of 25
6. 6. President Barack Obama cheers for the Chicago Bears. (Official White House Photo6 of 25
7. 7. Condoleezza Rice is a Cleveland Browns fan. (Photo: AP)7 of 25
8. 8. Jamie Foxx loves the Dallas Cowboys. (Photo: PR Photos)8 of 25
9. 9. LeBron James also is a Dallas Cowboy fan. (Photo: AP)9 of 25
10. 10. Don King is a Detroit Lions fan. (Photo: AP)10 of 25
11. 11. Jennifer Lopez loves the Miami Dolphins (Photo: AP)11 of 25
12. 12. Darius Rucker also is a Miami Dolphins fan. (Photo: AP)12 of 25
13. 13. Minnesota Vikings is the team Lil Wayne loves.(Photo: AP)13 of 25
14. 14. Aaron Neville supports his home team the New Orleans Saints (Photo: AP)14 of 25
15. 15. Denzel Washington is a fan of the New York Jets.(Photo: AP)15 of 25
16. 16. Jay Z will is also a fan of the New York Jets.(Photo: AP)16 of 25
17. 17. Ice Cube loves him some Oakland Raiders (Photo: AP)17 of 25
18. 18. Tiger Woods also is an Oakland Raiders fan.(Photo: AP)18 of 25
19. 19. It's the Philadelphia Eagles for Will Smith. (Photo: AP)19 of 25
20. 20. 50 Cent is also a big fan of the Philadelphia Eagles.(Photo: AP)20 of 25
21. 21. Snoop dogg is a Pittsburg Steelers fan.(Photo: AP)21 of 25
22. 22. Wiz Khalifa is also a Pittsburg Steelers fan.(Photo: AP)22 of 25
23. 23. Nelly, of course if a fan of the St. Louis Rams.(Photo: AP)23 of 25
24. 24. Anthony Anderson cheers for the Washington Redskins(Photo: AP)24 of 25
25. 25. Wanda Sykes is also a Washington Redskins fan.(Photo: AP)25 of 25
(Photo Source: AP)