Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum is calling on the owner of the Minnesota Vikings to take a decisive stand against the nickname of the NFL’s Washington Redskins.
On the heels of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decision to revoke the Redskins’ trademarks, McCollum wants Zygi Wilf to publicly condemn the Redskins nickname. The agency canceled the team's trademarks on the basis that it is "disparaging to Native Americans," but its decision cannot compel a name change.
“Mr. Wilf, I believe you are a man of integrity. Therefore I am calling upon you to publically demonstrate leadership on behalf of your organization and the people of Minnesota by adding your voice to the millions of Americans who are calling for this racist mascot to be changed and for Native Americans to be treated with respect and dignity by the NFL,” wrote McCollum, co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.
“A strong condemnation of the Washington franchise's name by the Minnesota Vikings Football Club will go a long way towards helping to change the mascot.”
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said the team had received the letter and called the matter an important one.
“We have a large Native American population in Minnesota and we’re sensitive to their concerns,” Bagley said, adding that team executives have been in an “ongoing dialogue” with the Native American community. “We’ve been active on this issue,” he said.
He didn't say that Wilf would meet McCollum's demand.
All NFL teams, minus the Dallas Cowboys, have a revenue-sharing agreement for licensed merchandise, meaning they pool and split all the revenue made from all licensed products. So, without legal trademark protections, a portion of the National Football League’s merchandise revenue is in jeopardy for not only Snyder, but also the Vikings.
“After yesterday's decision, NFL owners must now ask themselves if they want to continue to profit from a name so hurtful to our Native American brothers and sisters that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office deemed it ineligible for federal protection,” McCollum wrote.
“By taking a stand to change the mascot, you can send a very clear message to Native Americans and all Americans that your organization no longer wishes to benefit from the commercialization of that hateful slur.”
The Redskins plans to appeal the ruling handed down by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Team owner Daniel Snyder has maintained that the team's name is about history and tradition.
The Redskins travels to Minnesota to play the Vikings on Nov. 2 at TCF stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. In her letter to Wilf, McCollum writes that the “presence of the Washington franchise with their racist name” would violate the university’s equity and diversity policy.
National Football League Commission Roger Goodell has said that team names are decisions best made by individual owners. In a letter to Congress last year, he defended the Redskins name, calling it "a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect."