Nightly News   |  October 10, 2013

Native Americans fight to change Redskins’ name

Earlier this year, the owner of the Washington Redskins insisted he will never change the Redskins’ name. But criticism is growing, with President Obama weighing in and media outlets refusing to use the name. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

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>>> issue that has a lot of people, including the president, expressing an opinion and taking sides. one that's sparking feelings of pride and claims of prejudice. it is about one of the best known football teams in this country -- the washington redskins . they are facing increasing pressure to change their name, something the team's owner said again today he is not ready to do. we have more on this tonight from stephanie gosk.

>> reporter: the question is deceptively simple. what's in a name? for some washington redskins fans the team name is 81 years of tradition. do you have any opinions whether it should be changed?

>> yeah . it should stay. absolutely stay.

>> reporter: why?

>> because it's part of the legacy.

>> if it is offending people it's time to change it.

>> reporter: for a group of native americans campaigning to get the name changed redskins is not just an nfl team. it's a racial slur dating back to the 19th century .

>> any other ethnic group would not tolerate this kind of language being used about them that's so denigrating and dehumanizing.

>> reporter: the battle to change the team's name has been going off and on for decades. it flared up again when the owner said this to usa today . we'll never change the name, he said. it's that simple. never. you can use caps. likewise a long-time sports writer for the washington post believes the nfl will compel a name change .

>> it will be a critical mass at some point. at some point they are going to say, this is going to damage the league financially. we cannot have this.

>> reporter: criticism is growing. reporters from espn, usa today , and sports illustrated among others say they won't use the team's name. even president obama weighed in.

>> if i were the owner of the team i would think about changing it.

>> reporter: there are plenty of professional teams that faced similar criticism. the cleveland indians altered the logo. so did the atlanta braves who stopped the tomahawk chop during games. critics say the name redskins is the most derogatory.

>> we are making too much of something that doesn't mean anything.

>> reporter: the debate plays out daily on sports radio . doc walker is a former washington player.

>> a lot of people are talking about this that don't have a damn thing to talk about other than run their mouth because we're in washington .

>> reporter: so what is in a name? quite a lot. stephanie gosk, nbc news, washington .