ST. PAUL (WCCO) — A Minnesota Democrat is among 10 members of Congress urging the National Football League and the Washington Redskins to change the team’s name.
The Redskins got their name in 1932 and haven’t changed it. But the bi-partisan Native American Caucus in the US House — co-chaired by Minnesota’s U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum — says the name is not only racist, it might violate the law.
For Washington Redskins fan Patrick Wilson, the name of his favorite football team reflects history, not race.
“When I hear that name, it means nothing but positive things for me personally,” said Wilson, a lifetime Redskins fan and east coast transplant to Minnesota. “Only from the football perspective. That’s the only way I think of it. I don’t look at it outside that perspective.”
“That is a racist comment,” said McCollum, who represents Minnesota’s 4th Congressional district. “That’s how it was used in the early history of the United States and that’s how common it was. No one, no one today would knowingly walk up to a Native American and call them a redskin and think that it wouldn’t be offensive to them.”
McCollum, who co-chairs the Caucus with Republican Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma, sent a letter signed by 10 members of Congress to the NFL and all 32 NFL franchises including the Redskins.
“Native Americans throughout the country consider the ‘R-word’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos,” reads the letter. “Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw wide-spread disapproval among the NFL’s fan base.”
The Redskins won’t comment on the Congressional letter or changing the name. But on its website, the team posted an Associated Press Poll showing widespread support nationally for the Redskins moniker – 79 percent in favor. According to the United States Census Bureau, Native Americans made up 1.2 percent of the United States population in 2011.
Wilson, while shopping for NFL merchandise at the Vikings Locker Room at the Mall of America, was adamant that the name should not be changed.
“That is not offensive. That is not racist and I will stand by that,” said Wilson.
Meanwhile, McCollum and the Native American Caucus say the team name may be against the law. They claim it violates the federal trademark Act of 1946, forbidding corporate trademark symbols that disparage persons living or dead.