Washington – U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum is continuing her campaign to press the NFL’s Washington Redskins to change their name.
McCollum, co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, and several Capitol Hill colleagues penned letters to National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell and Redskins owner Dan Snyder this summer.
McCollum urged them to “take a stand against the use of the word ‘redskin’ ” as the team’s nickname, which she deemed derogatory, demeaning and offensive. So far, she’s been unsuccessful.
Now, the St. Paul Democrat is backing the “Change the Mascot” campaign led by the Oneida Indian Nation of New York.
“The NFL and its Washington franchise are promoting and profiting from an offensive, racist caricature of Native Americans that simply can’t be tolerated,” McCollum said in a statement Friday. “I hope football fans, the media and all Americans send a strong message that Native Americans and their culture are to be respected and honored, not degraded.
“My hope is that NFL owners and players go on the record and join the campaign because right now their silence is condoning this racist brand.”
Goodell defended the Redskins brand this summer in response to McCollum’s letter, maintaining that the name was not an effort “to denigrate Native Americans or offend any group,” and called it a “unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”
But Goodell seems to have softened his stance in recent weeks, acknowledging that the team name is offensive to some Native Americans.
“It’s something that I want all of us to go out and make sure we’re listening to our fans, listening to people of a different view, and making sure that we continue to do what’s right to make sure that team represents the strong tradition and history that it has for so many years,” Goodell said during an interview last week with D.C.-area radio station WJFK.
Snyder hasn’t taken the same tack. The Redskins owner has vowed never to change the name of the team.
“Ultimately, it is Dan’s decision,” Goodell said of a possible name change.
Several news organizations in D.C., as well as some prominent sports journalists, have stopped using the nickname. (The Star Tribune did not use Indian nicknames from 1994 to 2003.)
In a recent editorial, the team’s hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, said the word is a slur “so offensive that it should no longer be tolerated.”
But many fans, especially those inside the Beltway, have sided with Snyder.
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program plans to tackle the issue in a half-hour show airing Sunday morning. D.C. congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, a co-signer on McCollum’s letters, is among the scheduled guests.
The Redskins travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings on Thursday, Nov. 7.
Thus far, McCollum’s office hasn’t set plans for a demonstration or rally on that date.
On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., will participate in a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on “stand your ground” laws. Among the scheduled witnesses is Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager whose shooting death unleashed debate across the U.S. about self-defense laws and racial profiling.