While NFL commissioner Roger Goodell defends the controversial name of the Washington Redskins, a school superintendent in Idaho has announced that sports teams for Teton High School will no longer be called the "Redskins."
In a letter dated June 5 and made public Tuesday, Goodell responded to a request from members of the Congressional Native American Caucus to change the NFL team's name. He cited polls in which Native Americans supported the nickname and reiterated that "neither in intent nor use was the name ever meant to denigrate Native Americans or offend any group."
He also wrote: "The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context. For the team's millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America's most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect. ... The issues raised with respect to the Washington Redskins name are complex, and we respect that reasonable people may view it differently, particularly over time. But we hope that there is no doubt that the team understandably is proud of its heritage and the culturally rich community it serves, and its fans understandably are highly attached to that history and the team's identity."
The entire letter can be accessed via the Indian Country Today Media Network's website.
Caucus members have not responded kindly. "For the head of a multi-billion dollar sports league to embrace the twisted logic that 'Redskin' actually 'stands for strength, courage, pride, and respect' is a statement of absurdity," wrote Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), co-chair of the caucus, in a statement. "Would Roger Goodell and [Redskins owner] Dan Snyder actually travel to a Native American community and greet a group of tribal leaders by saying, 'Hey, what's up, redskin?'"
Meanwhile, Teton School District Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme says his decision to drop the Redskins nickname stems from his desire to teach students a kind of respect that goes beyond "the heritage behind the mascot."
"I'm not aware of other high school mascots called the 'Whiteskins,' for example, to refer to other demographic groups," Woolstenhulme told the Idaho Falls ABC-TV affiliate. "I don't feel like the nickname 'Redskins' is appropriate or respectful for Native Americans."
The station reports that it will cost almost $100,000 to alter signs and buy new athletic uniforms.
The school's wrestling coach isn't wild about the decision. "It's just been part of our tradition and we've always kind of had a lot of pride in the Redskins title," Richard Berry said, adding everyone will have to get used to the change. "It's going to be something that's very difficult for me to do."