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New law targets Washington Redskins' mascot use

Keith Allison

The Oneida Indian Nation and the Change the Mascot campaign have spent more than a year putting public pressure on the Washington D.C. football franchise to drop its nickname, the Redskins. They say it’s offensive.

Change the Mascot is continuing its push on Washington’s pro football team to change its name by reaching out to owners of all the NFL teams and taking action in Congress.

Half the U.S. Senate and a growing chorus of newspapers and public officials have chimed in too, but so far the team itself has refused to budge.

"In the year that we have been really intently focused on this issue, we’ve just seen a sea change in public opinion," Joel Barkin, a spokesman for the Oneida, said in an interview.

In June, the U.S. Patent Office canceled the Redskins' patent protection.

Now the coalition is sending a letter to the owners of the 31 other teams. It says they have the power to force the league to make a change.

To summarize what you well know: the name is defined in every major dictionary - and by the U.S. government - as a racial slur. It is a term screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands.

"So it’s up to the owners to show some vision and work together and make it so that Dan Snyder has an exit ramp and figure out a way to help him make a decision I think everyone is coming to the conclusion needs to be made," said Barkin, referring to the owner of the Redskins.

The Change the Mascot group and the National Congress of American Indians held a press conference at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday to announce the letter and a new piece of legislation targeting the team's name.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is also introducing a bill in Congress that would remove the National Football League’s tax-exempt status as a non-profit.

"If you can't use that language in every day conversation, then you can not have a sports team that receives massive public subsidies profiting and marketing that term," Barkin argued.