WASHINGTON — Several Native American leaders and organizations sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday calling for the league to force Dan Snyder, owner of the NFL team in Washington, to change the club’s name immediately.
The letter obtained by The Associated Press is signed by 15 Native American advocates. It demands 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 NFL did not immediately respond to a message confirming receipt of the letter. Goodell last week expressed support for Snyder’s review process 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 criticized the NFL team and Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians for considering name changes.
Trump tweeted: “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.”
Snyder had shown no willingness to change the name since buying the team in 1999. Last week, sponsors FedEx, PepsiCo, Nike and Bank of America said they requested the change, and several online stores removed the team’s gear.
FedEx CEO Frederick Smith is a minority owner, and the company is the title sponsor of the team’s stadium in Landover, Md. The sudden flood of sponsors coming out against the name prompted the organizational review announced Friday.
“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 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May sparked protests and a nationwide debate on racism. That conversation renewed calls for Snyder to change the name called a “dictionary defined racial slur” by Native American advocates and experts.
— By STEPHEN WHYNO
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