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Dan Snyder sent out a letter to Washington ticket holders on Wednesday morning, laying out his case for keeping the nickname.
Associated Press | File May
Redskins owner Dan Snyder outlined his dedication to the team's embattled nickname in a letter to ticket holders.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
ASHBURN - The annual rivalry between Dallas and Washington has been branded as "The Cowboys and the Indians." As this year's first game approaches, though, the debate over Washington's name is reaching a fevered pitch.
After taking two weeks of negative publicity, Redskins' owner Dan Snyder went on the offensive Wednesday morning, sending a letter to the team's ticket holders laying out his case for keeping the name.
"I've listened carefully to the commentary and perspectives on all sides, and I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name," Snyder wrote. "But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans too."
Team attorney Lanny J. Davis made appearances in the D.C. media.
On 106.7 The Fan, he said Snyder's comments in May that he would never change the name, with never in capital letters, did more harm than good.
"When I saw the all-caps comment, I thought that had the wrong flavor to it," Davis said. "I think [Snyder] is a good guy, and I wish he would let people know that, but saying ‘all caps' isn't the side of Dan Snyder I want him to project."
Snyder's letter makes its case by citing historical precedent.
He noted an award former coach George Allen received from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota as well as a survey conducted in 2004 that showed 90 percent of Native Americans are not bothered by the name.
The letter also cited a Richmond Times-Dispatch article written by columnist Paul Woody in May, which interviewed Native American tribal leaders in Virginia. All said they were not offended by the name.
Change has been a part of the Redskins' past. The team changed its fight song in the 1980s to remove language that parodied Native Americans, and former owner George Preston Marshall refused to sign an African-American player until the federal government forced his hand in 1962. Washington was the last NFL team to integrate.
Redskins players declined comment on the issue Wednesday, saying they were focused on football. Coach Mike Shanahan didn't weigh in on the debate, other than to support Snyder.
"Personally, I was glad he expressed exactly how he feels, from an ownership standpoint," Shanahan said.
Critics outside the organization have increased their lobbying efforts. The Oneida Indian Nation is funding a campaign to change the name, and President Barack Obama weighed in last week, saying he would think about changing the name if he owned the team.
On NBC's Sunday Night Football pregame show, former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy expressed concern over the name.
"The Redskins nickname is offensive to Native Americans," Dungy said. "In 2013, we need to get that name changed."
Snyder has made it clear he won't do that on his own.
He bolded one paragraph in his letter, after citing the team's tradition and how he was inspired by it as a child.
"Our past isn't just where we came from," he wrote. "It's who we are."
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