An Arizona state Representative who is a member of the Navajo Nation says the Washington Redskins' name is offensive and should be changed.
Just weeks after Native Americans protested in Glendale outside an Arizona Cardinals game against Washington, Democratic Representative Jamescita Peshlakai has publicly called on Arizona's congressional delegate to sponsor a bill that would pressure the NFL team to change the name.
"I don't want those protesters to think they are out there alone," Peshlakai tells New Times. "They need to be supported by leaders who feel this way, and I'm one of them."
In letters to Senator John McCain, Congressman Ed Pastor, and others, Peshlakai asks them to sponsor a bill that would remove the NFL's tax-exempt status, which would pressure the league to seek to have the name changed.
"Many Native Americans, including me, find this name incredibly offensive and derogatory," Peshlakai says in her letters. "Despite much opposition to the Redskins' name by the Native American community, [Washington owner] Dan Snyder continues to refuse to change the name. Therefore, I find it unfortunate but necessary that the federal government has to take such steps as revoking the Washington Redskins' trademark and threatening the NFL's tax-exempt status in order to get rid of a team name and mascot that derides the Native American community."
Although public opposition to the name has increased recently, public-opinion polling shows most Americans don't think the name is offensive. Supporters of the team name have pointed to a controversial poll of Native Americans purportedly showing that they don't find the name offensive, in addition to the fact that there are Native American-majority high schools that embrace the name at their schools.
However, Peshlakai doesn't think the name is something Native Americans generally support.
"I think a majority of people find it offensive, but they don't want to say anything about it," she says. "That's how we've been conditioned to be as Native Americans -- put down, and second-class citizens in our own nation. We don't speak out anymore."
Peshlakai isn't the first Navajo politician to come out against the name -- earlier this year, the Navajo Nation Council voted 9-2 to oppose the name.
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