Va. lawmakers form ‘Redskins Pride Caucus’

State Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, right, gestures as Del. David Ramadan, R-Prince William, left listens during a news conference by state legislators voicing support for the Washington Redskins at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Monday, June 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
State Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, right, gestures as Del. David Ramadan, R-Prince William, left listens during a news conference by state legislators voicing support for the Washington Redskins at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Monday, June 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A small group of Virginia state lawmakers announced Monday they have formed a “Redskins Pride Caucus” to defend the Washington Redskins’ football team that’s been under increasing pressure to change its name.

At a news conference at the state Capitol lawmakers took turns praising the team and recalling long-ago victories against arch-rival, the Dallas Cowboys.

Fairfax Democratic Sen. Chap Petersen said the caucus had no plans to introduce legislation or take other official acts, but was a way for state lawmakers to show support for the team.

“This is also about making sure that we protect our businesses, and be a voice for them to say ‘we’re not just going to let you get beaten up by Washington,’” added Loudon Republican Del. David Ramadan.

Opponents of the name say the term Redskins is derogatory toward Native Americans. The anti-”Redskins” movement has gained significant momentum over the last year and a half and drawn in political, religious and sports figures in addition to Native Americans. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has refused to change the name.

Last month, 50 U.S. senators sent a letter to the NFL urging it to change the name. And the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled last week that the Redskins name is disparaging and that the team should be stripped of federal trademark protection.

At Monday’s news conference, lawmakers said they did not think the name was derogatory, a view they said was shared by many Native Americans.

Lobbying firm McGuireWoods, which represents the Redskins, provided lawmakers at the news conference with Redskins-themed ties. But Ramadan and Peterson said the lobbying shop wasn’t responsible for the formation of the new caucus.

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