Aug 29, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Washington Redskins helmet during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Washington Redskins defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-12. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Civil rights groups urge NFL players to oppose Redskins name

The back and forth over the Washington Redskins name has picked up recently. A letter from 50 United States Senators was sent opposing the team’s name prompting a response from general manager Bruce Allen.

Anyone with a connection to the NFL seemingly has been asked about it, but they’re digging in their heels and refusing to budge. NFL Player’s Association president Eric Winston said that they would not get in the middle of the controversy over the team name.

“Any time you have a group of people that feel like they’re being slandered, that something is offensive to them, I think it’s important to have that conversation and I think it’s important to keep that conversation going and to find ways to make sure everybody feels that they’re not being discriminated against,” Winston said, via Pro Football Talk. “I think it’s disappointing when you have that kind of situation where people are offended. So I think they should be heard.

“I think their concern should be addressed, but at the end of the day, as players, we don’t own the team and we can’t force a team owner to change the name and that’s not something we’re going to get in the middle of, either. I think any time you have someone that feels like they’ve been offended, that they’re being slandered, that there’s a derogatory name against them, I think it’s important to have that conversation and to continue to have that conversation until both sides feel good about where they’re at.”

Well they’re facing more pressure to get involved, much like the NBA players taking public stances against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Today a letter from more than 75 different organizations have asked NFL players to take a stand against the name. The NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and many Native American groups are amongst those sedning the letter.

“Despite team officials claiming the name ‘honors’ Native Americans, the ‘R-word’ does exactly the opposite,” the letter states, via Pro Football Talk. “It was the word screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands, it is the word for the object needed to collect a bounty—literally ‘red skins’—ripped from dead Native American bodies and exchanged for money as proof of kill, and it is a term that still denigrates Native Americans today. The name does not honor people of color, instead it seeks to conceal a horrible segment of American history and the countless atrocities suffered by Native Americans.”

“Over and over again, defenders of the name demand to know why advocates for changing the name do not spend time on any of the other critical issues facing Indian Country,” the letter continues. “The fact is, this is a critical issue. According to psychologists and public health experts, the NFL’s promotion of this term continues to do great psychological harm to Native Americans, and particularly Native American children. With the NFL spending billions of dollars a year promoting this slur on television and in merchandise across the globe, these children are being constantly told they are savages who should be primarily judged on the basis of their skin color.”

The question is whether the players decide to step up. If they do, they could have someone like St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, who is part Cherokee, step up and lead the charge.

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