British Parliament To NFL: Change Redskins’ Name Or Send Another Team To London

by NESN Staff

February 25, 2016

The quest to change the Washington Redskins’ name has gone international.

The NFL scheduled Washington to face the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 30 at Wembley Stadium as part of its three annual London games. But some British politicians aren’t too happy about that, and two members of Parliament earlier this month sent the NFL a letter, which ESPN.com obtained.

“We were shocked to learn the derivation of the term ‘R*dskin,’ pertaining as it does to the historic abuse of native Americans,” the letter from British Labour Party members Ruth Smeeth and Ian Austin read. “The exportation of this racial slur to the UK this autumn, when the Washington team is due to play, directly contravenes the values that many in Britain have worked so hard to instill.”

What further complicates the issue is that England doesn’t have native populations — it’s been inhabited for 800,000 years — so the word “Redskin” is foreign to them.

“We’re quite clear that sport is a vehicle for cultural change and celebration of what’s best about society rather than hate and division,” Smeeth told ESPN in a phone interview Friday. “That’s why bringing in new racial slurs to Britain is unacceptable. This is not the way we would want Native Americans introduced to our country.”

The word also will affect coverage of the game, Smeeth said, because the BBC is taxpayer-funded.

“The last thing the NFL wants — after putting so much behind its brand in the U.K. — is a good number of us to begin putting pressure on the BBC in terms of what they’re showing and how they’re showing it,” Smeeth said. “This is not the image the NFL wants portrayed in the U.K.”

The NFL confirmed the receipt of the letter to ESPN but had little in the way of comment.

“A team’s name is a club decision,” NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy told ESPN in an email. “We recognize there are strong views on both sides of this.”

Thumbnail photo via Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via A detailed view of a sign during a protest against Washington Redskins name and imagery prior to a game against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium.
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