WASHINGTON — Seizing the racist flap involving Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling as an impetus, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington and 48 fellow Senate Democrats are asking the National Football League (NFL) to force a name change for the Washington Redskins.
The letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell makes no direct reference to the Redskins, a name it called a “racial slur” that Native Americans find offensive. It was led by Cantwell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and all but six other Democrats in the Senate signed it. The letter wa not circulated among Republicans.
Cantwell until earlier this year chaired the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. In February, she and Rep. Ted Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, sent Goodell a similar letter arguing that the NFL was “on the wrong side of history.”
Wednesday’s letter — the largest congressional voice on the issue so far — said Sterling’s anti-black comments opened up a national dialogue on race relations. The lawmakers called on the NFL to follow National Basketball Association’s decisive action in banning Sterling from the league.
They said “Indian Country has spoken clearly on this issue” and urged Goodell to watch a video posted by the National Congress of American Indians, “Proud to Be,” calling for a new mascot.
“What message does it send to punish slurs against African Americans while endorsing slurs against Native Americans?” the senators wrote. “Today, we urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports. It’s time for the NFL to endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C. football team.”