The Washington Redskins took on Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Friday, telling Majority Leader Harry Reid that his efforts to orchestrate a campaign to force a team name change were misguided and failed to recognize the name’s “deep and personal meaning.”
“I hope you will attend one of our home games, where you would witness first-hand that the Washington Redskins are a positive, unifying force for our community in a city and region that is divided on so many levels,” team President Bruce Allen wrote Mr. Reid.
The letter offered several rebuttals to arguments that Mr. Reid and other Democratic senators made in a letter earlier this week asking the NFL to force the team to change its name because they considered it racially offensive.
He also noted that 90 percent of Americans in one poll didn’t find the team name offensive, and that an Associated Press survey earlier this year found 83 percent of Americans supported keeping the team name.
“What policy or issue generates 83 percent to 90 percent support is this era of negativity and division?” he asked.
The team also played up its recent charitable efforts through a new foundation that in just two months has funded 40 projects to help Native Americans. “It is our mission to help tackle the troubling realities facing so many tribes across our country,” Mr. Allen wrote.
Fifty U.S. senators, all Democrats except for one independent, sent a letter earlier this week to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, urging him to force Redskins‘ owner Daniel Snyder to change the team’s name.
“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,” the letter read. “It’s time for the NFL to endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C. football team.”
The letter went on to say that racist remarks from soon to be ex-L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling had opened up a national conversation about racism, and that Native American tribes from across the country had voiced their outrage on the name being racially insensitive.
“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 read.
Mr. Reid was among those who signed the letter
“I have 22 tribal organizations in Nevada,” he told the New York Times. “They are not mascots. They are human beings. And this term Redskins is offensive to them.”