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Roger Goodell defends Redskins name in letter to McCollum

WASHINGTON — McCollum has called the name “derogatory, demeaning and offensive.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, shown with Minnesota Vikings draft pick Sharrif Floyd.
REUTERS/Adam Hunger

WASHINGTON — Rep. Betty McCollum and the Congressional Native American Caucus waded into the simmering debate over the political correctness of the Washington Redskins name last month, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has told her the name is here to stay.

McCollum and members of the caucus sent Goodell a letter in May asking him to consider changing the name of the Redskins, calling it “derogatory, demeaning and offensive,” and a “slur akin to the N-word.” The name is a source of ongoing conflict in the NFL and in Washington, and the brand is a subject of a federal trademark lawsuit.

But in a June 4 letter to McCollum, Goodell said there is vast public support to keep the name, and that it was never intended to offend. Rather, the name was meant to honor Native Americans even after the franchise changed its name from the Boston Braves in 1933 (there was a baseball team of the same name. The franchise moved to Washington in 1937).

“Neither in intent nor use was the name ever meant to denigrate Native Americans or offend any group,” Goddell wrote.

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In a statement, McCollum said the letter was, “another attempt to justify a racial slur on behalf of [Redskins owner] 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,” she said.

Snyder has said he will never change the team’s name.

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com.