While the NBA is battling the backlash from LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling's racially charged comments to a friend, the commissioner of the National Football League has received letters from some 50 senators asking for the Washington Redskins team name to be changed, the New York Daily News reports.
"The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur," the lawmakers told Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The senators didn't use the team's name in their letters to the commissioner.
"The Washington, D.C. football team is on the wrong side of history," the lawmakers wrote, the Daily News reports. "What message does it send to punish slurs against African Americans while endorsing slurs against Native Americans?"
The senators see an opportunity for the NFL to join the "national conversation on race" after the swift banning of Sterling from the NBA by Adam Silver, the basketball commissioner. Sterling was heard on an audiotape telling an associate that he did not want her publicly associating with black people.
This "is an opportunity for the NFL to take action to remove the racial slur from the name of one of its marquee franchises," the senators wrote.
The senators noted "that every national tribal organization in the U.S., representing two million Native American people, has now formally requested the name change," the Daily News reports.
"Yet every Sunday during football season, the Washington, D.C. football team mocks their culture," the lawmakers wrote.
Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, turned down the lawmakers' request in a written statement viewed by the Daily News. McCarthy wrote that "the intent of the team's name has always been to present a strong, positive and respectful image. The name is not used by the team or the N.F.L. in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently."
The Washington team owner, Daniel Snyder, has said several times that the name will not be changed. In fact, Snyder has tried to convince Native Americans that the term is not insensitive but inclusive and a name that is full of pride.
"We understand the issues out there, and we're not an issue,” Snyder said last month, the Daily News reports. "The real issues are real-life issues, real-life needs, and I think it's time that people focus on reality."
Read more at the New York Daily News.