In a letter addressed to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, 49 senators have asked the league to rename the Washington Redskins.
"This month, Americans applauded the rapid and decisive reaction from new National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver to the racist remarks of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling," the letter began. "Commissioner Silver sent a clear message that racism will not stand in the NBA.
"Today, we urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports. It’s time for the NFL to endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C. football team."
The letter, circulated among Democrats, was led by Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Both of Maryland's senators, Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, lent their support. But neither of Virginia's senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, signed the letter; they were two of just five Democrats not to. Two independents, Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine), also signed.
A 50th senator, Bill Nelson of Florida, wrote his own letter to Goodell, saying that he does not believe that retaining the Redskins name "is appropriate in this day and age."
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has been steadfast in his desire to never change the name despite mounting pressure from lawmakers and Native American activists.
The NFL has stood behind Snyder and released a statement of its own Thursday.
"We have not received the letter, but the NFL has long demonstrated a commitment to progressive leadership on issues of diversity and inclusion, both on and off the field," league spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "The intent of the team's name has always been to present a strong, positive and respectful image. The name is not used by the team or the NFL in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently. The team name is not used by the team or the NFL in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently."
A copy of the letter can be seen below (via Deadspin):
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