NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the Washington Redskins' nickname is a "unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect."
Goodell responded last week to a letter from 10 Congress members who want the Redskins' name changed because they say it's offensive to many Native Americans.
Goodell cited the nickname's origins and polls that support its popularity. He wrote that he understands the feelings surrounding it are complex and might change, but he also points out fan pride in the team's heritage.
"Mr. Goodell ... Whether good intentioned or not, the fact of the matter is that the term 'Redskin' is a racial slur that disparages Native Americans," said Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa). "It is time for the NFL to stop making excuses for itself and fully embrace its so-called commitment to diversity."
Said Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota): "Goodell's letter is another attempt to justify a racial slur on behalf of Dan Snyder and other NFL owners who appear to be only concerned with earning ever larger profits. ...
"Indian children, families and elders are Americans," McCollum added, "and just like all racial, ethnic, or religious groups, they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, not as a demeaning caricature or mascot. That shouldn't be too much to ask of the NFL."
The name is the subject of a legal challenge from a group seeking to have the Redskins lose their trademark protection.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.