Fifty members of the United States Senate haved signed a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell urging the league to "endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C. football team," known to the rest of us as the Washington Redskins. The name, the undersigned argue, is a "slur against Native Americans", and the NFL "can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name."
All 50 signees were Democrats, although representatives of much of the Redskins fan base appear split. Virginia's Democratic senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine did not sign the letter, while Maryland Democrats Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin did (though it should be noted that most of the state of Maryland consists of fans of the Baltimore Ravens, who likely don't care about the Redskins name change). Not included at all are the District of Columbia's own representation (or non-representation) in the U.S. Senate--namely, D.C.'s "shadow" senators, elected by the voters of the District as their agitators for full voting rights in Congress.
Michael D. Brown, the junior shadow senator, says he knew about the letter and wasn't surprised he and his colleague, Paul Strauss, weren't consulted. "Sometimes, they don't call us," Brown says. "Except to ask for money!" A call to Strauss at his Washington law office has not yet been returned.
Brown, a lifelong D.C. resident and fan of the Redskins (a name he doesn't use in our phone interview), thinks the name has to go. "These guys have to change their name," Brown says. "It's a tough thing to do, but you gotta do it."
He says even though his constituents may love the Redskins heritage and history, the name offends Native Americans. Brown praised the decision of his Senate non-colleagues to write the letter. "I think it's the province of every American to stand against racism," he said.
So what should Dan Snyder's boys rename themselves? Brown thinks there are plenty of more positive Native American nicknames, like Warriors, that could be used, but he offers another suggestion from Washington's sports past.
"The Senators name isn't being used right now," says Brown. "And the team's doing about as well as the U.S. Senate right now!"