Fifty members of the United States Senate wrote a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on May 22 to pressure the Washington Redskins into changing their controversial nickname.
According to The Washington Times' S.A. Miller, 50 senate democrats are urging NFL commiissioner Roger Goodell to do what the NBA has done: eradicate any form of racism in the league.
"Senate democrats are putting pressure on the National Football League to force the Washington Redskins to change its team name, which said they reflects 'racism and bigotry.'
"A group of 50 members from the Senate Democratic caucus signed on to a letter Thursday night urging NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to follow the lead of the National Basketball Association, which banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for his racist comments about African-Americans attending basketball games.
"'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,' wrote the senators. 'It's time for the NFL to endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C. football team.'
"'The despicable comments made by Mr. Sterling have opened up a national conversation about race relations. We believe this conversation is an opportunity for the NFL to take action to remove the racial slur from the name of one of its marquee franchises,' they said.
"The letter was penned by Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.
"Nearly every Senate Democrat signed on, as did independent Sens. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Angus King, Jr. of Maine, who caucus with the Democrats.
"Conspicuously absent amont the signees were Democratic Sens. Timothy Kaine and Mark Warner, both of Virginia, which is home to much of the Redskins' fan base.
"The name of the Washington football team has long infuriated liberal groups and civil rights organizations that consider 'Redskins' a slur against Native Americans, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Council of La Raza and The American Civil Liberties Union."
The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg probed deeper as to why Kaine and Warner held back.
"The Post reached out to both senators' offices to ask why they declined to sign the letter, which was signed by 49 other Senators (Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida wrote his own letter).
"An aide to Kaine said he has been publicly supportive of a name change for months, but that he had concerns about the tone of the letter sent by the Senate Democrats.
"An aide to Warner said in a statement that 'Senator Warner believes that it's not for Congress to dictate what the league does. He believes that over time, team names will change to reflect the times, as happened with the Washington Wizards."
On the other hand, Reid explained his side to The New York Times' Carl Hulse and Elena Schneider, who first reported the development.
Reid quipped,"I have 22 tribal organizations in Nevada. They are not mascots. They are human beings. And this term Redskins is offensive to them."
ESPN's Darren Rovell quotes NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy in a statement which says the league hasn't received the letter.
"We have not received the letter, but the NFL has long demonstrated a commitment to progressive leadership on issues of diversity and inclusion, both on and off the field.
"The intent of the team's name has always been to present a strong, positive and respectful image. The team name is not used by team or the NFL in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently."
Oneida Indian Nation CEO Ray Halbritter lauded the Senators for their action via a statement of his own, per Rovell. It reads,"Washington team owner Dan Snyder and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have claimed that using the R-word epithet somehow honors native peoples, but it is quite the opposite. The R-word is a dictionary-defined racial slur."
A full copy of the Senators' letter to Commissioner Goodell can be read here.