If the "disturbing" name of the Washington Redskins were derogatory toward African-Americans, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said Thursday on MSNBC, action would have been taken long ago to change it.
"I'm not surprised that most Americans don't see any harm in the word," Norton said of the 80-year-old franchise title. "Most of us have had to be educated by Native Americans, who after all, are only less than two percent of the population. They don't exactly have a microphone every day."
Led by Democratic Del. Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, 10 Republican and Democratic members of Congress - including the co-chairs of the House Native American Caucus, Reps. Tom Cole, R-Okla.; and Betty McCollum, D-Minn. - on Tuesday dispatched letters to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, team owner Dan Snyder, Redskins sponsor FedEx and the other 31 league franchises, calling for a new name for the Washington team.
According to the Associated Press, the letter argued, "Native Americans throughout the country consider the 'R-word' a racial, derogatory slur akin to the 'N-word' among African-Americans or the 'W-word among Latinos.'"
Snyder told USA Today earlier this month that despite years' worth of complaints and a longstanding trademark lawsuit, the team will "never change the name... NEVER - you can use caps," he said.
"I don't know what Snyder is standing on, what the principle is - we understand what the principle is on the part of Native Americans," Norton said. "This is not about the First Amendment; this is about branding - whether you can... use a brand that disparages an ethnic group."