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British politicians take issue with Redskins name ahead of team visit


The Washington Redskins are scheduled to face the Cincinnati Bengals in London’s Webley Stadium next fall as part of the NFL’s International Series. But two members of British Parliament have objected to the league sending a team with a name that bears with it an “exportation of this racial slur to the UK.”

Ruth Smeeth and Ian Austin, members of British Labour Party, wrote a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, obtained by ESPN, in which they specifically request that the Redskins change their name. If that cannot or will not be done, they request that the NFL send another team “that does not promote a racial slur.”

“We were shocked to learn the derivation of the term ‘R*dskin,’ pertaining as it does to the historic abuse of native Americans,” read the letter dated Feb. 2. “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.”

The politicians note in their correspondence that Wembley Stadium has its own specific set of bylaws and policies contained in its own anti-racism charter that bans “racial, homophobic or discriminatory abuse, chanting or harassment.”

Smeeth and Austin also were among the members of Parliament who met earlier this year with members of Change the Mascot, who have been on the forefront of the movement to have the Redskins change their name.

“That’s why bringing in new racial slurs to Britain is unacceptable,” Smeeth said in a telephone interview last week. “This is not the way we would want Native Americans introduced to our country.”

The NFL confirmed to ESPN that Goodell in fact received the letter but essentially stated through a spokesperson that there is little the league can do.

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