‘If that’s where he is, that’s unacceptable’: Democratic senator threatens NFL commissioner over Redskins name

Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell publicly warned National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell that his tacit support of the Washington Redskins team name is “unacceptable,” threatening government action against the team and league if he fails to rethink his stance.

The Washington state senator and chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee spoke with MSNBC’s “The Cycle” about a letter she sent to Goodell on Monday, which called the Redskins name “a racial slur” and charged that the NFL was “on the wrong side of history.” She doubled down on that language during her television appearance.

“We want to make it clear,” she began, “because Commissioner Goodell said right before the Super Bowl that he thought this was a name honoring Native Americans. And I don’t know if that’s a change in position, but certainly — if that’s where he is, that’s unacceptable, for the  NFL to continue to support the name of a football team that a large organization that represents Native Americans all across the country — the National Congress of American Indians — has called for the removal of that name because it represents a slur to them.”

The lawmaker put the NFL on notice: Toe the line, or we’ll come after you. “We thought the NFL was listening, and at least was going to listen about this issue,” she griped, “but that press conference prior to the Super Bowl made it clear that they are going along with this perpetrated charade about this name.”

“The U.S. Patent Office has said they’re not going to issue a patent on this phrase, because they determine that it is a derogatory term,” she continued. “We expect them to take action. We hope the FCC will look at this issue as well, with them communicating this issue. We’re going to look at the tax code, because right now America has enough problems instead of giving a tax break to somebody who continues to perpetrate what really is a very racially-slurred word to Native Americans.”

There is already a movement in Congress, led by Senator Tom Coburn, to strip the NFL of its tax-exempt status. But that push is based in fiscal responsibility — not racial self-righteousness — and refuses to single out one particular team for abuse by the FCC, U.S. Patent Office or other government agencies.

A Wall Street Journal poll released last month found that just 18 percent of Americans support a Redskins name change.

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