WASHINGTON (AP) — Redskins President Bruce Allen says in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the NFL team’s nickname is “respectful” toward Native Americans.

On Thursday, half the U.S. Senate urged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to change the Washington club’s name, saying it is a racist slur and it is time to replace it.

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The franchise responded by releasing Allen’s letter Saturday. He says that “our use of `Redskins’ as the name of our football team for more than 80 years has always been respectful of and shown reverence toward the proud legacy and traditions of Native Americans.”

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The senators’ letters come at a time of growing pressure to change the name, with statements in recent months from President Barack Obama, lawmakers of both parties and civil rights groups.

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