Democrats in the Senate upped the pressure on National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to push the Washington Redskins to change the team’s name, telling him in a letter that the team is ‘on the wrong side of history’ with its use of a derogatory term as its handle.
Fifty Democratic senators signed the letter authored by Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., calling on Goodell to follow National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver in sending a clear message ‘that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports.’
Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA for life after he was caught on tape making racist remarks about African-Americans. In their letter, the senators said the Sterling episode offers the NFL the opportunity to ‘take action to remove the racial slur from the name of one of its marquee franchises.’
‘The Washington, D.C., football team is on the wrong side of history,’ the letter, sent to Goodell on Wednesday, states. ‘What message does it send to punish racial slurs against African Americans while endorsing slurs against Native Americans?’
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‘The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,’ the letter concludes. ‘We urge the NFL to formally support and push for a name change for the Washington football team.’
Five Democrats didn’t sign the letter: Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, the state where Washington team’s training camp and practice facility are located; Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
The letter is the latest volley in the fight over the team’s name. Native American groups, civil rights organizations, and several state and federal lawmakers have urged the NFL and Washington owner Daniel Snyder to drop the team’s name.
But Snyder has steadfastly refused. At $1.6 billion, Snyder’s team is the third most-valuable NFL franchise and the eighth most-valuable sports franchise in the world, according to Forbes magazine.