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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Fifty senators have signed a letter urging the NFL to force the Washington Redskins to change their name, The New York Times reports.

The letter cites the NBA's recent sanctions against Clippers owner Donald Sterling after racist comments he made were caught on tape and made public.

"The N.F.L. can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur," the letter reads. "We urge the N.F.L. to formally support a name change for the Washington football team."

"The despicable comments made by Mr. Sterling have opened up a national conversation about race relations. We believe this conversation is an opportunity for the NFL to take action to remove the racial slur from the name of one of its marquee franchises."

The NFL issues a response Thursday, ESPN reports.

"We have not received the letter, but the NFL has long demonstrated a commitment to progressive leadership on issues of diversity and inclusion, both on and off the field," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. "The intent of the team's name has always been to present a strong, positive and respectful image. The team name is not used by the team or the NFL in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently."

According to The Times, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia were one of five Senate Democrats who did not sign the letter.

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