The controversy over the Washington Redskins' name is heating up as two legislators step up pressure on the National Football League commissioner to support changing it.
Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee, and Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of the Native American Caucus, wrote a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell, saying, "The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur," reports The New York Times
Cantwell told the newspaper she might reconsider the league's tax-exempt status, among other measures, if Goodell does not comply.
"You're getting a tax break for educational purposes, but you're still embracing a name that people see as a slur and encouraging it," she said.
Referring to Goodell's remarks at a news conference before the Super Bowl, when he said polls showed public support for keeping the name, Cantwell explained, "I think they've been hearing from various tribal leaders, and we thought they were understanding this issue, but clearly this press conference shows that they don't."
The Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP have criticized the team's name, which has been used for 80 years, and last May 10 members of Congress sent a similar letter to Goodell after drafting legislation that would stop companies from using the term "redskin" in reference to Native Americans for commercial purposes, reports The Hill
"The National Football League is on the wrong side of history," wrote Cantwell and Cole
"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," their letter says.
Tony Wyllie, a spokesman for the Redskins, shot back at the lawmakers' move, writing in an email to the Times, "With all the important issues Congress has to deal with, such as a war in Afghanistan to deficits to healthcare, 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," he added.
Daniel Snyder, the team's owner, wrote an open letter to fans
in October explaining why he would not change the name.
"I've listened carefully to the commentary and perspectives on all sides, and I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name," he said. "But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans, too."
Snyder's letter came days after President Barack Obama said that if he owned the team, he would consider renaming it.
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