The nickname of the Washington pro football team is "a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter to 10 members of Congress who'd urged him to reject the name.

Goodell's letter, dated June 5, was released Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), who roundly criticized the commissioner's stance in a joint statement.

McCollum, co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, called Goodell's defense of the name "twisted logic" and "a statement of absurdity." Faleomavaega, a member of the House Committees on Natural Resources and Foreign Affairs, said that "Goodell has completely missed the point. … It is time for the NFL to stop making excuses for itself and fully embrace its so-called commitment to diversity."

Goodell's letter came in response to a May 13 letter from 10 members of Congress who asked him to "take a stand against the use of the word 'redskin' as the Washington franchise's name."

Goodell said in his letter that the team's name "from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context" and was never "meant to denigrate Native Americans or offend any group."

McCollum said: "Goodell's letter is another attempt to justify a racial slur on behalf of (Redskins owner) Dan Snyder and other NFL owners who appear to be only concerned with earning ever larger profits, even if it means exploiting a racist stereotype of Native Americans."