Congress Members Respond to NFL Commissioner’s Support for ‘Redskins’ Name


June 11, 2013

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

Two members of Congress,  Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) and Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) have issued responses to the June 5 letter sent by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding the league’s position on the Washington, D.C. franchise’s use of the name “Redskins.” Goodell wrote in his letter that the term, considered offensive–racist–by many Native Americans, has a “positive meaning.” (Read Goodell’s entire letter here.)

Congressman Faleomavaega responded to the letter with the following statement:

Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa)

“Mr. Goodell has completely missed the point regarding the Washington franchise’s name. In his recent letter, he acknowledges the NFL’s ‘responsibility to exemplify […] values of diversity and inclusion.’ Yet in the same letter he fails to assume any responsibility for the racism that the Washington franchise’s name continues to promote. You cannot have it both ways. Whether good intentioned or not, the fact of the matter is that the term ‘Redskin’ is a racial slur that disparages Native Americans. It is time for the NFL to stop making excuses for itself and fully embrace its so-called commitment to diversity.”

Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) (MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel)
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn
(MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel)

Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus Congresswoman McCollum issued the following response:

“Unfortunately, NFL Commissioner Goodell’s letter is another attempt to justify a racial slur on behalf of Dan Snyder and other NFL owners who appear to be only concerned with earning ever larger profits, even if it means exploiting a racist stereotype of Native Americans. For the head of a multi-billion dollar sports league to embrace the twisted logic that ‘Redskin’ actually ‘stands for strength, courage, pride, and respect’ is a statement of absurdity.

“Would Roger Goodell and Dan Snyder actually travel to a Native American community and greet a group tribal members by saying, ‘Hey, what’s up redskin?’ I think not. (“Hey, what’s up redskin” is >a quote from materials provided to my office by the NFL, along with the claim that “Redskins” is a “term of endearment” among Native Americans.)

“Indian children, families and elders are Americans, and just like all racial, ethnic, or religious groups, they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, not as a demeaning caricature or mascot. That shouldn’t be too much to ask of the NFL.”