As the debate over the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname continues here in North Dakota, given new life by demands from activists for a ban on the retired logo/nickname and a formal denunciation from the UND administration, North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp has joined a national fight over a controversial NFL nickname.
Heitkamp is one of 50 senators to sign a letter telling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that it’s time to be rid of the Washington Redskins nickname.
North Dakota Senator John Hoeven did not sign the letter.
“Today, we urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did,” the letter states referring to the controversy over LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s recent comments, “that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports.”
Of course, some might argue that grandstanding politicians also have no place in professional sports.
“Now is the time for the NFL to Act,” the letter reads. “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?”
I’ve always thought the Redskins controversy to be a different animal from other logo/nickname issues, like the Fighting Sioux issue here in North Dakota. Whereas “the Fighting Sioux” is simply the use of a Native American peoples’ name, there is no question that “Redskins” is a pejorative.
Calling it a “slur” is, frankly, perfectly accurate.
Still, I’d rather see the team name changed because of market forces – because of a response to genuine popular outcry – not because a bunch of political bullies wrote a letter.