Several Native American leaders and organisations have sent a letter to the NFL calling for the league to force the Washington Redskins to change the team name immediately.
- Washington and baseball’s Cleveland Indians both announced reviews into their teams’ names last week
- US President Donald Trump tweeted his opposition to the “politically correct” moves
- The Redskins have for years rejected requests to change the team’s name
The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, was signed by 15 Native American advocates and demanded the team and the NFL cease the use of Native American names, imagery and logos — with specific importance put on Washington, which last week launched a “thorough review” of its name.
“[The groups] expect the NFL to engage in a robust, meaningful reconciliation process with Native American movement leaders, tribes, and organizations to repair the decades of emotional violence and other serious harms this racist team name has caused to Native Peoples,” the letter read.
The NFL did not immediately respond to a message confirming receipt of the letter, although NFL commissioner Goodell last week expressed support for Washington boss Dan Snyder’s review of the name.
Retired PGA Tour golfer Notah Begay, two former executive directors of the National Congress of American Indians and several authors and professors signed on to the letter, which came the same day President Donald Trump criticised the Redskins and Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians for considering name changes.
The Indians, many fans of whom objected to the removal of mascot Chief Wahoo from team paraphernalia, also announced it was taking steps “to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name”.
“They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct,” Mr Trump tweeted.
“Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!” he added, needling the Democratic senator who has been targeted by Mr Trump and faced questions over her claims of Native American ancestry.
Snyder had shown no willingness to change the name since buying the team in 1999, but last week sponsors FedEx, Pepsi, Nike and Bank of America said they requested the change, and several online stores removed the team’s gear.
FedEx chief executive Frederick Smith is a minority owner and the company is the title sponsor of the team’s stadium in Landover, Maryland.
“This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” Snyder said.
The protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May renewed calls for Snyder and his team to stop using the “dictionary-defined racial slur”, as Nestle did with its Redskin and Chico products last month.
There are a number of other top American sporting franchises that utilise Native American imagery, including baseball’s Atlanta Braves and NFL Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs.
Both teams’ fanbases have engaged in a “tomahawk chop” in the stands, which the clubs have at times tried to distance themselves from.