Half of the United States Senate has signed and sent a letter to National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell objecting to the name of the Washington Redskins, and demanding a change. “That racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports,” the letter reads.
Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), who spearheaded the effort, took to the Senate floor to urge a name change, asking the NFL to follow suit in stamping out racism as the NBA did in banning Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life following his offensive comments.
In her remarks, Cantwell said she understood “why everyone in America may not understand why this is important,” and conceded that the name change “may not even be the top issue in Indian country,” but that that doesn’t diminish the importance of changing the name.
The letter was signed by only Democrats, with the exception of independent senators Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who both caucus with the Democrats. Five Democrats refrained from signing on to the letter: Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. In a separate statement, Warner’s spokesperson said the senator had declined to sign on because the matter is not one that Congress should take up.
Cantwell pointed to support from the United Nations for a name change as a sign of the gravity of the situation. “Even the U.N., even the world community, is calling on this community here to deal with this issue and we should act, so I hope my colleagues join in this effort to get the NFL to do the right thing,” she said.
The NFL responded with a statement of its own, saying it has “long demonstrated a commitment to progressive leadership on issues of diversity and inclusion.” Additionally, it said the intent of the name “has always been to present a strong, positive and respectful image,” but that it would respect those who disagree.