DFL U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum is calling on Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to reject the Washington Redskins name and to urge team owner Daniel Snyder to change the team’s name.
“The time for debate has ended – the name of the Washington franchise is clearly an offensive racial slur,” McCollum wrote in a letter to Wilf. “I urge you, as an NFL team owner, to not remain silent on this matter any longer.”
McCollum’s letter comes a day after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled legal protections for the Washington Redskins because the name is “disparaging to Native Americans.”
Her letter also noted that all NFL franchises, including the Vikings, split the sales of their licensed merchandise equally, and that the Vikings profit from any sale of Redskins merchandise.
“After yesterday’s decision, NFL owners must now ask themselves if they want to continue to profit from a name so hurtful to our Native American brothers and sisters that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office deemed it ineligible for federal protection,” McCollum wrote. “By taking a stand to change the mascot, you can send a very clear message to Native Americans and all Americans that your organization no longer wishes to benefit from the commercialization of that hateful slur.”
McCollum is the co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus. She’s been pressing the NFL and Washington Redskins ownership to change the name for more than a year.
I’ll post an update this post with reaction from Vikings officials if/when I receive it.
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley confirmed the team has received the letter from McCollum. He called the criticism of the Redskins name a significant issue.
“This is an important issue,” Bagley said. “We have a significant Native American population in Minnesota and we’re sensitive to the concerns that have been raised. Beyond that, I would defer comment to the NFL on this matter.”
Bagley stopped short of saying whether Wilf would call on Snyder to change the name. He said team officials have met with Native American leaders to discuss the issue and hope to talk about their concerns.
Here’s McCollum’s letter to Wilf: