Ten members of Congress recently sent Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder a letter, urging him to change the name of the team, according to a news release issued Tuesday by the office of Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, congressman for the American Samoa.
Joining Faleomavaega in the effort were fellow representatives and co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus: Tom Cole (Oklahoma) and Betty McCollum (Minnesota) as well as Raul M. Grijalva (Arizona), Gwen Moore (Wisconsin), Michael M. Honda (California), Donna M. Christensen (Virginia Islands), Zoe Lofgren and Barbara Lee (both of California) and Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District.
The representatives sent similar letters to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and FedEx President and CEO Frederick Smith, and the owners of the NFL’s 31 other franchises.
In the letter, the representatives argued “Native Americans throughout the country consider the ‘R-word’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos.
“Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw wide-spread disapproval among the NFL’s fan base. Yet the national coverage of Washington’s NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging to Native Americans.”
Later in the letter, the members of Congress said, “In this day and age, it is imperative that you uphold your moral responsibility to disavow the usage of racial slurs. The usage of the [“R-word”] is especially harmful to Native American youth, tending to lower their sense of dignity and self-esteem. It also diminishes feelings of community worth among the Native American tribes and dampens the aspirations of their people.”
A Redskins spokesman said the team has no comment on the letter.
Team officials have repeatedly stated they do not find the name offensive, and that they have no plans to change the name. A recent AP poll showed 79 percent of Americans do not think the team should change the name.
Speaking to reporters last week in Richmond, General Manager Bruce Allen said, “I think it’s a non-issue and it’s been a non-issue for decades. We really don’t get the talk that other people get because we hear from our fans. And our fans will always be our fans of the Washington Redskins.”
In a recent interview with USA Today, Snyder said, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use all caps.”