Officials with Washington’s football team have defended the team’s name by arguing that team fans and many Americans, including some who are Native American, see nothing objectionable in the moniker and don’t want it changed. The suggestion, of course, is that the push for a new name comes from outliers, a vocal but clueless minority.

That makes even more significant the decision by a group with close ties to the National Football League to add its respected voice to the chorus for change.

“We cannot be silent on this issue,” leaders of the Fritz Pollard Alliance said in announcing opposition to the name, in a statement that, not coincidentally, was released on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The group, which is named after the first black NFL head coach and which promotes diversity and equality of opportunity in the league, said a new name for the Washington team is urgently needed. “As the NFL continues to move in the direction of respect and dignity, one of its teams carrying this name cuts glaringly against the grain,” read a letter sent to minority coaches and front-office staff members.

The Fritz Pollard Alliance joins other civil-rights groups that have come out against the team’s name, but the group’s close association with the NFL and its track record of success in bringing about positive change gives particular resonance to its message.