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Lawmakers, Redskins spar over team name

The Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- The latest back-and-forth over the Washington Redskins name includes a stern letter from two lawmakers and a new ''community voices'' campaign from the team.

A letter sent Monday from Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., tells NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that the league is on ''the wrong side of history'' and mentions the league's tax-exempt status. Cantwell chairs the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

The lawmakers specifically objected to Goodell's Super Bowl week news conference, when he said the Redskins name has been ''presented in a way that honors Native Americans.''

''It is, in fact, an insult to Native Americans,'' the letter states.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league will respond to the letter ''in an appropriate manner'' once it has been reviewed.

Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie responded to the letter with an email statement, saying: ''With all the important issues Congress has to deal with, such as a war in Afghanistan to deficits to health care, don't they have more important issues to worry about than a football team's name?''

That prompted a statement from Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Indian Nation, which has been at the forefront of the push to change the team's name.

''While the Washington team somehow claims that Congress has better things to do than intervene in a serious issue that involves taxpayer dollars, it is the exact opposite: Congress has a responsibility to the American people to put an end to this kind of taxpayer-subsidized bigotry,'' Halbritter said.

The Redskins also countered by saying they've received ''almost 200'' letters and emails in recent months in support of the name from people who identified themselves as Native Americans or as family members of Native Americans. They say they've received only seven letters from Native Americans opposed to the name. The team released excerpts from the letters and called them ''community voices.''

''We should not turn our back on these Native Americans,'' the team's statement said. ''Their voices deserve to be heard.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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