PHOENIX, DEC. 28 -- If the NFL is serious about civil rights and racial issues, it should force the Washington Redskins to pick a new nickname, the president of a Phoenix bible college says.

"If the NFL were really motivated by ethnic concerns, why would they have a team called the Redskins?" asked Dave Moore, president of the American Indian Bible College. "What if some other team came into the league and decided to call themselves the Blackskins or the Yellowskins?"

Moore wrote to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in December, asking the league to find a new moniker for the Redskins in light of the NFL's threat to pull the 1993 Super Bowl out of Arizona because voters rejected a paid holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

Both NFL and Redskins officials brushed off the suggestion, saying they have no intention of changing the name because it's "a tradition."

"Team nicknames often are a celebration of American folklore," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said today.

But Kee Ike Yazzie, a Navajo education official, said the nickname is "offensive and derogatory" and "totally unintelligent."

Charlie Dayton, a spokesman for the Redskins, said, "The name is part of the Washington tradition, just like the Washington Monument and the museums here." The name reflects such Indian traits as "courage, strength and bravery," he added.

Moore said the NFL could make a strong statement on behalf of all ethnic groups by demanding the Redskins change their name.

"If you do not, I and the American Indians who attend this college are forced to conclude that your concern about the lack of a Martin Luther King holiday is strictly business-motivated and has nothing to do with race consciousness," he wrote in his letter.