Half of the U.S. Senate has endorsed a letter to National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell urging him to enact a change to the Washington Redskins’ name.
“The despicable comments made by [Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling] have opened up a national conversation about race relations,” the letter from 50 Democrat senators said. “We believe this conversation is an opportunity for the NFL to take action to remove the racial slur from the name of one of its marquee franchises.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., circulated the letter, while Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., served as its sponsor. The note was circulated solely among Senate Democrats; all but five chose to sign.
The document cited the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s decisive action against Sterling, who received a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine for making racially charged comments about African-Americans, as an example toward which Goodell should aspire.
“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,” the letter added.
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For Reid, a name change for Washington’s football team is a priority. “I have 22 tribal organizations in Nevada,” he said. “They are not mascots. They are human beings. And this term Redskins is offensive to them.
NFL officials claim that they have yet to receive the letter, the New York Times reports. But spokesman Brian McCarthy addressed the issue in a statement.
“The intent of the team’s name has always been to present a strong, positive and respectful image,” the statement said. “The name is not used by the team or the NFL in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently.”
The full text of the senators' letter to Roger Goodell can be viewed below.