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Senate Lawmakers At Impasse On Redskins Name Change

Many publications across the country have made the decision to stop explicitly referring to Washington's football team as the "Redskins."
(AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
Many publications across the country have made the decision to stop explicitly referring to Washington's football team as the "Redskins."

The Washington Post editorial board is no longer using the term “Redskins” to refer to Washington’s NFL team. Still, other opponents of the name in Washington have limited options.

This spring, 50 Democratic U.S. senators penned a letter to the NFL arguing the franchise name is a racial slur. Now the editorial board of the biggest newspaper in Washington has weighed in, but team owner Dan Snyder doesn't seem to be budging. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says Snyder should sit down with Native American leaders to hear them out about a racist history of the name.

"There are some Americans that don't find some of our racial words offensive, but many of the people who are of that race find them offensive," McCain says.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled the team name is “disparaging,” and cancelled its trademark in June. That ruling could make it more difficult for the franchise to profit from merchandise but it also sparked a whole new debate. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) says the Trademark Office overstepped.

“Well, I think they're out of line. They should not be telling businesspeople what they can name their businesses," Hatch says.

Senator Hatch speaks for many fans when he says the name and logo actually show admiration of Native Americans.

"Well, if you look at their symbol, it’s a proud Indian chieftain, and there’s no intent to malign anybody. And frankly, it’s been a longtime name that has meant so much to every doggone person that loves Redskins football," Hatch says.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is glad the government is being proactive as the controversy bubbles to the surface once again. He says there should be no question the government has a role to play because of the special business privileges the NFL maintains.

“Well, we have given them antitrust exemptions. Did we have a role in giving them antitrust exemptions? They came to government asking for that," Levin says.

Pressure is mounting for a name change, according to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). She says opponents should be as loud as fans are on Sundays.

“I think every American has to weigh in on the matter, including those in government," McCaskill says.

While the controversy continues to heat up the nation’s capital, there doesn't seem to be much more policy makers can do. So Native Americans are once again left without much recourse in the face of what most say is a hurtful reminder of their long battle to gain the respect of non-Natives.

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