More than a dozen Native American leaders and organizations sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday calling for the league to force the Washington NFL team owner Dan Snyder to change the team name immediately.
The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, was 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 team’s decision to review the offensive name came in the wake of FedEx, which paid $205 million for naming rights to the team’s stadium in Landover, Md., and other corporate partners calling for the team to change its name.
Just hours after the Washington team announced its review, the Cleveland MLB team announced that it, too, will review their long-debated name, which has been in place for 105 years.
“We are committed to making a positive impact in our community and embrace our responsibility to advance social justice and equality,” the baseball team said in a statement July 3. “Our organization fully recognizes our team name is among the most visible ways in which we con- nect with the community.”
(The Richmond Free Press has long advocated for the Washington NFL team to drop its racist moniker that is held to be offensive by Native Americans. In an October 2013 editorial, late Free Press founder and publisher Raymond H. Boone detailed that the newspaper was “expunging” the name from its news and editorial columns. Mr. Boone wrote at the time that the name was both insulting to Native Americans and divisive. The racist moniker has not been used in Free Press news and editorial content since that time.)
The letter signed by the advocates was delivered to the Washington team on the same day that President Trump voiced his opposition to any name change by the two teams. In a tweet, he criticized the pro sports teams, saying they “look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct.”
According to their letter, 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. Mr. Goodell last week expressed support for Mr. Snyder’s review process of the name.
Mr. Snyder had been steadfast against changing the name on several occasions since buying the team in 1999.
But pressure has mounted for the name to go. Last week, sponsors FedEx, PepsiCo, Nike and Bank of America released statements saying they requested a change, and several online stores removed the team’s gear. Nike announced last Friday it would no longer sell Washington NFL team products on its online store, followed by Walmart, Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods, which announced this week that they are ceasing sales of Washington merchandise as the team evaluates the name.