Betty McCollum calls on Zygi Wilf to publicly condemn Redskins nickname

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McCollum to Wilf: "The time for debate has ended -- the name of the Washington franchise is clearly an offensive racial slur."
One surprising revelation in Chris Kluwe's nuclear account of alleged homophobia within the Vikings organization is that Zygi Wilf is actually a staunch supporter of gay rights.

Kluwe wrote that before a September 2012 game, right as the marriage amendment he was so outspoken in opposing was becoming a huge political issue in Minnesota, Wilf approached him and said, "Chris, I'm proud of what you've done. Please feel free to keep speaking out. I just came from my son's best friend's wedding to his partner in New York, and it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen." (The results of the Vikings' investigation into Kluwe's allegations are set to be revealed next week, so stay tuned for more on that story soon.)

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Wilf didn't make comments of that sort publicly at the time, but in the wake of the Washington Redskins having their trademark canceled by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office earlier this week, Rep. Betty McCollum is asking Zygi to lend his voice to the cause of another marginalized group.

"Mr. Wilf, I believe you are a man of integrity," McCollum, co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, writes in a letter she sent to Wilf yesterday. "Therefore I am calling upon you to publicly demonstrate leadership on behalf of your organization and the people of Minnesota by adding your voice to the millions of Americans who are calling for this racist mascot to be changed and for Native Americans to be treated with respect and dignity by the NFL."

While one might argue that the Washington, D.C., franchise's team name isn't Wilf's business, the fact is a revenue-sharing agreement among all NFL teams (minus the Dallas Cowboys) means it literally is. All organizations benefit when Redskins merchandise is sold, and, by extension, stand to lose if the trademark nullification (not to mention all the negative PR) hurts the D.C. football team's bottom line.

"After [the patent] decision, NFL owners must now ask themselves if they want to continue to profit from a name so hurtful to our Native American brothers and sisters that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office deemed it ineligible for federal protection," McCollum, who has long led the congressional effort to get rid of the Redskins team name, writes. "By taking a stand to change the mascot, you can send a very clear message to Native Americans and all Americans that your organization no longer wishes to benefit from the commercialization of that hateful slur."

Despite the Patent and Trademark Office's decision, the legal battle over the Redskins name could drag on for years thanks to the appeals process. In a legal analysis published on SI.com, Michael McCann, founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, writes that while "in theory, the Redskins and their owner, Daniel Snyder, could lose millions of dollars as a result of the cancellation," the reality is existing licensing contracts and other state-level legal protections for the team's trademarks means "significant adverse economic impact on the Redskins does not occur immediately."

Meanwhile, in comments made to the Star Tribune, Vikings VP Lester Bagley said, "We have a large Native American population in Minnesota and we're sensitive to their concerns," but didn't go as far as to say Wilf would meet McCollum's demand.

To read McCollums's full letter, click to page two.



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