WASHINGTON - Washington Redskins president Bruce Allen has responded to a call by US lawmakers to change the NFL team's name, saying the moniker is "respectful" to Native Americans.
"Our use of 'Redskins' as the name of our football team for more than 80 years has always been respectful of and shown reverence toward the proud legacy and traditions of Native Americans," Allen wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that was posted on the club's website on Saturday.
In his letter, Allen refers to research the team has done on the name that he says showed that "the term Redskins originated as a Native American expression of solidarity."
He also notes that the team's logo -- a Native American man in profile wearing a feathered head-dress -- was designed by Native American leaders and cites surveys that Native Americans and Americans as a whole support the name.
Washington team owner Daniel Snyder firmly opposes a change, despite a small but vociferous campaign which says "redskins" is a "dictionary-defined racial slur."
In a letter made public on Thursday, almost half of the US Senate gave support to the campaign to change the racially charged name.
In a joint letter to the National Football League (NFL), 49 senators noted the swift manner in which the National Basketball Association (NBA) sanctioned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racist remarks.
"Now is the time for the NFL to act," said the letter.
"The Washington, D.C. football team is on the wrong side of history. What message does it send to punish slurs against African Americans while endorsing slurs against Native Americans?"
The senators -- including Reid -- added: "The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur.
"We urge the NFL to formally support and push for a name change."
Allen urged Reid to attend a Washington game "where you would witness first-hand that the Washington Redskins are a positive, unifying force for our community in a city and region that is divided on so many levels."
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