Half of the U.S. Senate urged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday to change the Washington Redskins' name, saying it is a racial slur.
In a letter to Goodell, 49 senators — all of them Democrats — cited the NBA's quick action recently to ban Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life after he was heard on an audio recording making offensive comments about African-Americans. The senators said Goodell should formally push to rename the Redskins. Another senator, Bill Nelson, D-Fla., wrote his own letter urging the name change.
"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," read the 49 senators’ letter, which did not use the word "Redskins."
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has refused to change his team's name, citing tradition.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., led the letter-writing effort.
Last month Reid took to the Senate floor to say Snyder should "do what is morally right" and change the name. President Barack Obama and lawmakers from both parties have previously pressed for the name change.
The letter said tribal organizations representing more than 2 million Native Americans across the United States have said they want the Redskins name dropped.
Despite federal laws protecting Native Americans’ identity, "Every Sunday during football season, the Washington, D.C., football team mocks their culture," the senators wrote.
"The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur," the letter said.
In response to the letter, the NFL issued the following statement: “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 name is not used by the team or the NFL in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently.”
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press