Ten members of Congress sent Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder a letter today, urging him to change the "derogatory" team name to something else. But Dan Snyder has news for them: he'll "never" change the team name, no matter what, according to a May interview with USA Today. That's even as he faces (another) lawsuit that could force the team to lose its trademark.
The Congress members, including the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, made their stance on the name pretty clear:
“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. Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw wide-spread disapproval among the NFL’s fan base. Yet the national coverage of Washington’s NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging to Native Americans.”
The legislators, led by Eni F.H. Faleomavaega of American Samoa, have also introduced a bill that would specifically cancel any trademark registrations using the word "redskins." As we've explained before, a trademark loss would have vast financial consequences for both the franchise and the NFL at large. And that's exactly why critics of the name have tried to release the trademark via the court system for years. But, even though it looks like the Redskins trademark could legitimately be in danger this time, Snyder doesn't seem concerned about it. Here's Dan Snyder, to USA Today:
"We will never change the name of the team," Snyder told USA TODAY Sports this week. "As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it's all about and what it means, so we feel pretty fortunate to be just working on next season."
What if his football team loses an ongoing federal trademark lawsuit? Would he consider changing it then?
"We'll never change the name," he said. "It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."
Surprisingly, a recent AP poll found that 79 percent of Americans agree with Snyder that the name should stay as-is, a stance that Snyder (along with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell) have justified by using basically the same argument used by those who want to keep flying the Confederate flag everywhere: tradition. Goodell, via ESPN, said the following on the "Redskins" name in February:
"Growing up in Washington, I do understand the affinity for that name with the fans," Goodell said. "I also understand the other side of that. I don't think anybody wants to offend anybody. But this has been discussed over a long period of time. I think Dan Snyder and the organization have made it very clear that they are proud of that name and that heritage, and I think the fans are, too."
The letters also went out to Goodell, FedEx President and CEO Frederick Smith, and the owners of all of the other NFL franchises. The Congress members who co-signed the letter with Faleomavaega are: Tom Cole (Oklahoma), Betty McCollum (Minnesota), Raul M. Grijalva (Arizona), Gwen Moore (Wisconsin), Michael M. Honda (California), Donna M. Christensen (Virginia Islands), Zoe Lofgren (California), Barbara Lee (California) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC).
As the Washington Post's Mike Jones noted, the Redskins franchise has no comment on the letter.