The Washington Redskins continued to defend their team name in a letter sent Friday to a top Capitol Hill lawmaker.
The letter from Redskins executive Bruce Allen to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, calls the team name “respectful” toward Native Americans.
“Our use of ‘Redskins’ as the name of our football team for more than 81 years has always been respectful of and shown reverence toward the proud legacy and traditions of Native Americans,” Allen wrote in the letter, which was released by the team.
Reid was among the 50 Democratic Senators who wrote letters Thursday to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging him and the league to endorse a name change by the Redskins.
“The Washington Redskins are one of the NFL’s flagship franchises,” Allen wrote in his letter to Reid. “We have played in 11 NFL Championship games and have won five World Championships. With over 81 years of tradition created by thousands of alumni and millions of fans, the Redskins team name continues to carry a deep and purposeful meaning.”
Allen wrote that the team name “originated as a Native American expression of solidarity” and its logo “was designed by Native Americans.” He cited polling to write that an “overwhelming majority of Native Americans do not find the name offensive” and that the “vast majority of Americans are in favor of keeping the team name.”
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has said he never will change the name and, in March, the owner started the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation to aid Native American causes.
“It is our mission to help tackle the troubling realities facing so many tribes across our country, by providing resources and genuine opportunities to those in need,” Allen wrote in Friday’s letter. “Since the foundation was established just 60 days ago, it has already initiated over 40 projects across the country, which includes the distribution of over one thousand tablet computers for Native American students, as well as over a dozen vehicles that will be used for various health and community purposes.”
One of the letters sent Thursday to Goodell, signed by Reid and 48 other members of the U.S. Senate, said: “The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur. We urge the NFL to formally support and push for a name change for the Washington football team.”
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) wrote a separate letter to Goodell supporting a name change.
Friday’s letter refers to Allen’s title with the team as president. Allen previously has had the titles of executive vice president and general manager. Neither he nor the team immediately responded to requests for comment about whether his title had formally changed.