Washington NFL Team: Using a Racial Slur For Our Name Is Respectful of Native Americans

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 24 2014 12:19 PM

Washington NFL Team: Using a Racial Slur For Our Name Is Respectful of Native Americans

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Washington NFL team President Bruce Allen speaks to members of the media earlier this year

Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Washington NFL team is not backing down. The president of the club strongly believes that using a racial slur as the team name “for more than 81 years has always been respectful of and shown reverence toward the proud legacy and traditions of Native Americans.” The team released a letter that its President Bruce Allen wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has been outspoken in his objection to the name, after half the U.S. Senate urged the team to pick a less offensive way to call itself.

Allen lays out four main reasons why the name isn’t a problem. First, the offensive racial slur “originates as a Native American expression of solidarity.” (That may very well be true but as editor David Plotz explained when Slate stopped using the name in the magazine, “over time, it became a more ambiguous, and less benign term, sometimes used as a slur.”) Plus, Allen notes, the team’s logo was “designed and approved” by Native American leaders. And if those reasons fail to convince the senators, there’s always populism: Native Americans don’t find the name offensive and the vast majority of Americans favor keeping the name intact.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.