Several House members, including Del. Eleanor Norton-Holmes (D-D.C.), sent letters Wednesday to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, Redskins sponsor FedEx and the 31 other franchises in the NFL, petitioning them to change the D.C.-based team’s name to something less culturally insensitive.
“For decades now, Native American leaders and organizations have been advocating an end to the use of ‘redskin’ as your organization’s ‘brand’ because it is derogatory, demeaning, and offensive,” the letter states, while pointing out the NFL’s “Commitment to Diversity” in case the commissioner or any of the team owners had forgotten it.
The letter also references H.R. 1278, a bill introduced in March that would legally require the team to change its name. The bill, the Non-Disparagement of American Indians in Trademark Registrations Act of 2013, now sits in committee.
The legislators also believe that the Redskins’ mascot, a depiction of a Native American chief, could also serve to diminish young people.
“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 word ‘redskins’ is especially harmful to Native American youth, tending to lower their sense of dignity and self-esteem,” it said.
Besides Norton-Holmes, the letter was signed by Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.), Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Michael Honda (D-Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa). All ten legislators are cosponsors of H.R. 1278 as well.
The group also has support on the local level, as earlier this month D.C. Councilman David Grosso (I-At Large) announced that he would submit his own resolution to change the team’s name.
These politicians are in the small minority, however. An Associated Press-GfK poll released earlier this month found that 79 percent of Americans nationwide think the team should stick with its current name. Same goes for both team owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER–you can use caps,” Snyder told USA Today earlier this month.
Goodell, a D.C. native, added that the team’s name at this point is more about its legacy with the fans.
“Growing up in Washington, I do understand the affinity for that name with the fans,” Goodell told the Washington Post in February. “I also understand the other side of that. I don’t think anybody wants to offend anybody. This has been discussed several times over a long period of time. I think [Redskins owner] Dan Snyder and the organization have made it very clear that they’re proud of that heritage and that name and I believe fans are, too.”
The ‘Skins aren’t the only team to be called out for its Native American-based name, either. Protestors held demonstrations during the games of the 1995 Major League Baseball World Series between the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians. Meanwhile, the Seminole tribe has actually embraced Florida State University’s Chief Osceola mascot after a long controversy over the mascot’s existence.