NFL commissioner Roger Goodell defended the controversial Washington’s NFL football team‘s nickname in a letter to a bipartisan group of Congress members who are asking for it to be changed because it is offensive to many Native Americans, claiming the name represents “a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”
Goodell’s letter, publicly disclosed on Tuesday by US Representative Betty McCollum and Delegate Eni Faleomavaega, came in response to 10 members of Congress who had asked him to “take a stand against the use of the word ‘redskin’ as the Washington franchise’s name.”
In the letter, dated June 5, Goodell wrote that the nickname “from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context.” He also said that the nickname was never “meant to denigrate Native Americans or offend any group.” Goodell cites the roots of the team name — which Goodell says was changed in 1933 to “R” in part to honor the team’s then-head coach William “Lone Star” Dietz — as well as public opinion polls that show only a small minority of Americans consider the name objectionable.
Both representatives of Congress rebuked Goodell’s letter, calling into question the commissioner’s “twisted logic.”
Said McCollum, the co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus:
“Goodell’s letter is another attempt to justify a racial slur on behalf of [Redskins owner] Dan Snyder and other NFL owners who appear to be only concerned with earning even larger profits, even if it means exploiting a racist stereotype of Native Americans.”
“Would Roger Goodell and Dan Snyder actually travel to a Native American community and greet a group of tribal leaders by saying, ‘Hey, what’s up redskin?’ I think not,”
The commissioner’s letter included research polls claiming that the public, and many Native Americans, weren’t offended by the nickname.
“As you correctly recognize, the issues raised with respect to the Washington Redskins name are complex, and we respect that reasonable people may view it differently,” Goodell wrote. “The National Football League takes seriously its responsibility to exemplify the values of diversity and inclusion that make our country great.”
Last month, ten members of Congress urged the Washington team to change their name, sending letters to Goodell, Redskins owner Dan Snyder, team sponsor FedEx and the other 31 NFL franchises.
Native Americans throughout the country consider the `R-word’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the `N-word’ among African-Americans or the `W-word’ among Latinos, the letter stated, according to the Associated Press.
Team owner, Daniel Snyder, told USA Today last month that despite mounting pressure to drop the name and a longstanding trademark lawsuit, “the team will “never change the name.”