The fight over the Washington Redskins' team name has moved from the team's headquarters in Ashburn, Va., crossed the Potomac River and landed on Capitol Hill. For a number of congressmen and their constituents, the Redskins represent an offensive and derogatory nickname that evokes painful memories of persecution.
Ten members of Congress including Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Betty McCollum, D-Minn., co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, sent a letter to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell asking them to consider changing the team's name out of respect for the country's native people.
"Native Americans throughout the country consider the term 'redskin' a racial, derogatory slur akin to the 'N-word' among African-Americans or the 'W-word' among Latinos," the lawmakers wrote in their letter released this week. "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."
But if Congress cannot convince the NFL to take action, they may force change through the power of the law.
Lawmakers have alerted the NFL that Congress introduced legislation that would amend the 1946 Trademark Act and cancel any trademark that used the term 'redskin.' The bill would also forbid future companies from trademarking the term.
The legislation has the support of the Cherokee Nation as well as 27 other Native American groups.
Lawmakers' actions come as Native American groups filed a lawsuit in March against the football team, arguing that the name disparaged native people.
"We appreciate that there are complexities involved with supporting a change of the Washington football team's name. However, we must also acknowledge that the NFL will never fulfill its 'commitment to diversity' as long as this racial slur remains a key component of the NFL organization," the lawmakers said.
Snyder, however, told USA Today earlier this month that despite all the pressure to change the name, he simply would not do it.
"We'll never change the name," Snyder told USA Today. "It's that simple. NEVER. You can use caps."