Time for the Washington Redskins to get a new name?

By MPR News intern Aidan Arnold

Both senators in Maryland — where the Washington Redskins play — signed on to a letter urging NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to get the team to change its name. AP

Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are among 49 Democratic and independent U.S. senators who signed a letter urging NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to endorse a name change for the Washington Redskins.

They hope to build on momentum following NBA action against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for making racist comments in a taped private conversation.

“It’s already too late for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to act with the dispatch of the NBA commissioner,” writes NPR’s Frank James. “Goodell has defended the Redskins name, saying it was meant to honor Native Americans. Indian groups and many non-Native Americans aren’t buying that.”

Though no Republicans signed Cantwell’s [Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash] letter by the time it became public, some GOP lawmakers have agreed that Washington’s NFL team should change its name.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for instance, has suggested as much. On the House side, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., an enrolled member of the Chickasaw tribe, has also called for the name to be changed. Cole signed an earlier letter with Cantwell that suggested that the use of a racial slur was inconsistent with the NFL’s status as a tax-exempt organization under IRS rules. You could read that as a shot across the bow.

Today’s Question: Is it time for the Washington Redskins to get a new name?

  • kevins

    Yes.

  • Josh Ruhnke

    Yes. I think they should lose their tax exempt status as long as they keep a racial slur as a team nickname.

    • Nick

      That NFL teams have non-profit status is a common myth. All league profits go to the teams, and each team is a for-profit company and is taxed per the laws of its state.The league office is a non-profit, but it operates at a loss, so it wouldn’t be taxed even if it were a for-profit.

  • Nick

    A name change would be nice. If they want to stick with a Native American theme, they could become the “Warriors”. They could also name themselves for a big part of their history and go with the “Hogs”.

  • torjager

    It is very simple, actually, Take the helmet from the 1972 era redskins with the “R” and the feather attached call them the “Redtails after the Redtailed hawk.

  • JQP

    Yes. Be done with it. Team names mean nothing relative to heritage and history.
    These are not citizens from the city playing for the pride of their city.
    these are corporate entities hiring, trading talent with little or no concern for citizen input.

    I suggest the naming them the Washington Cherry Trees .. kind of a hail to Pres #1
    they could have pink jerseys.

  • PaulJ

    No sense in fight! fight! fighting it. They could be named after the local native nation. Or better yet, after the 1st Infantry division (the big red 1).

  • HeadlessNorseman

    The team does not have a strong enough incentive to change the name at this time. They are currently favored by the last court decision (Pro-Football, Inc. v. Harjo), and most opinion polls over the last two decades show most Native Americans are not offended by the logo, though it should be noted every poll on the subject has been criticized for its methodology. They do all show an interesting trend in that over time fewer people support the name, and a majority of people will support the team regardless of the name.

    In light of all of this, a letter from the senators means pretty much nothing, especially when the team has judicial backing that the name is acceptable. The senators are in a position to institute real change, and should stop writing petty letters and get to work on tougher legislation regarding trademarks.

    • JQP

      one wonders when a letter from the senate ever meant anything.

    • Thankin’ Franken

      The senate has better things to do, like reinstating the voting rights of a woman who’s been dead for almost 90 years.

  • Linda Estel

    Of course they should change their name. It is horribly racist.

  • Awake

    As a society we can not continue to ignore obvious displays of ignorance. Changing the Redskins name is not only the responsible thing to do, but can be used as a teaching moment for everyone (especially young people).

  • Joe

    Definitely, they should change it to the Marijuana-smoking Redskins, Washingtonians are certainly not for Washington any more as they go against the scheduling parameters Controlled Substances Act. I think that might make it more racist though, and perhaps confusing.

    • Nick

      Wrong Washington.

      • Joe

        Which Washington?

        • Nick

          The Redskins are in Washington, DC. The state of Washington is the one with legal weed.

          • Joe

            Washington DC has legal weed too, their medical cannabis program just has no patients.

  • Jamison S.

    Don’t see why not. It’s clear that it’s an unpopular name, and re-branding, despite the cost, gives them an opportunity to re-introduce themselves to the world and generate a bunch of excitement. The entire process for coming up with a new name could even be a huge social media contest, garnering a lot of attention to the team. It’s not a crisis, but an opportunity.

  • Pearly

    DC Redskins

    • Joe

      That’s still a little confusing because people from DC run red all the way through

  • Jim G

    Yes. This name change is far overdue. ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’ by Dee Brown was published in 1970.This excellent history expresses a Native American perspective on the injustices and betrayals committed by the US government. I would think any rationally run business would have removed the word “redskin” by the end of the 70’s. Speaking for myself, I’d say refusal to change their name is just plain mule-headed stubbornness. Hey… maybe I’ve got something here …The Muleheads?

  • Living in the 21st century

    The Washington Racist, The Washington Rednecks, The Washington Rapist, there are plenty more apt names.

  • John

    Yeah. It’s time. And it’s time to use Dakota instead of Sioux, a French word that means snake if memory serves. So Dakota Falls, SD. That would take some getting used to.

  • Mike

    And lets get rid of the Fighting Irish!

  • axe627

    let the redskins live! football history is important too. I think of redskins in a positive sense.

  • Mark in Ohio

    While personally I don’t think that the name needs to change, I can see enough people will keep whining and nagging until it is changed. I guess after that, the fight will go after Indian Motorcycles. If nothing else, it will generate both an increase in merchandise of the new logo, as well as in the old and retired version. In the grand scope of things, sports team names don’t have any real
    impact on any meaningful facet of life – they are caricatures and marketing tools.

    That said, when they do change the name, I’d love for them to go entirely the other way with the name. I want the mascot to be a middle-aged, beer gutted white guy with a receding hair line, a white tank-top, and a three-day beard stubble. Call them the “Fighty-Whities” Since I’m neon white and could readily dress like that, it would give me a great Halloween costume. I also have a sense of humor and can laugh at myself enough to enjoy this.

  • Jamie

    The Vikings name really make a mockery of my ancestors’ history.

    • Joe

      Their stadium is the real joke

  • Sue de Nim

    Yes. Given the violent nature of American football as a spectacle of ritualized combat, any “honor” intended by a team name is dubious, and any insult inherent in a racial slur like that team’s name is intensified.

  • Craig

    I’d like to see our polticians take care of local issue’s, this is as dumb as pork barrel spending..

  • Pearly

    Can we get Senator Warren to weigh in on this