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Congress Members: Redskins Name Change Needs to Happen, Letter Says

Image: Congress Members: Redskins Name Change Needs to Happen, Letter Says

By Alexandra Ward   |   Monday, 10 Feb 2014 12:44 PM

Two members of Congress have written a letter to the NFL urging action on the Washington Redskins' team name, asking the league to "take a formal position in support of a name change."

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and also a member of the Chickasaw Nation, and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., reportedly sent the letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday, according to the Washington Post.

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"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. "It is clear that you haven’t heard the leading voices of this country — and not just Indian Country. Virtually every major civil rights organization in America has spoken out in opposition to this name including the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, the Rainbow Coalition, and the League of United Latin American Citizens."

Cantwell and Cole also cited the NFL's tax-exempt status.

"It is not appropriate for this multibillion-dollar ... tax-exempt organization to perpetuate and profit from the continued degradation of tribes and Indian people," the letter read, according to the Washington Post. "It is time for the National Football League to formally support and push for a name change for the Washington football team."

The team responded with a letter of its own, penned by Redskins spokesman Tom Wyllie.

"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."

The Redskins' note cited a 2004 survey that said 90 percent of Native Americans were not bothered by the Redskins' name. According to Wyllie, the team has received "more than 7,000 letters and emails" in favor of keeping the name, with almost 200 of them "from people who identified themselves as Native Americans or as family members of Native Americans."

The Redskins' name has been a hot button issue for months now, with both sides debating back and forth. NFL Commissioner Goodell addressed the issue last month at his annual Super Bowl news conference.

"We recognize that there are some that don’t agree with the name, and we have listened and respected that," he said. "But if you look at the numbers, including in the Native American communities — in the Native American community polled, nine out of 10 supported the name. Eight out of 10 Americans in the general population would not like us to change the name. So we are listening. We are being respectful to people who disagree. But let’s not forget this is the name of a football team."

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