Lawmakers to NFL: Change Redskins' Name, or Else

League faces threat to tax-exempt status

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 10, 2014 9:58 AM CST

(Newser) – The Washington Redskins' name is facing a new attack, this time from two members of Congress. Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, who heads the Indian Affairs Committee, tells the New York Times that if the NFL doesn't take action, legislators will "definitely" review the league's tax-exempt status. "You're getting a tax break for educational purposes, but you're still embracing a name that people see as a slur and encouraging it," says Cantwell. She and Republican Rep. Tom Cole, a Native American Caucus member, have today sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell condemning the name. Cole is one of two Native Americans on Capitol Hill, the Washington Post notes.

"The National Football League can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur," the letter says, noting that "virtually every major civil rights organization in America has spoken out in opposition to this name." The lawmakers call on Goodell and the NFL to formally back a name change; though they aren't explicit about the league's 501(c)(6) status being in jeopardy in the letter, they do mention that status. A Redskins spokesman replies, via the Times: "With all the important issues Congress has to deal with, such as a war in Afghanistan to deficits to health care, don’t they have more important issues to worry about than a football team's name?" He adds: "Given the fact that the name of Oklahoma means 'red people' in Choctaw, this request is a little ironic."

n this May 1, 2009 file photo, the Washington Redskins' Marko Mitchell puts his helmet on during an NFL football minicamp in Ashburn, Va.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
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