Redskins name changer aims to be a game changer for controversy

File photo: The Washington Redskins logo patch on the uniform of Safety Brandon Meriweather at FedEx field on November 3, 2013 in Landover, MD.
Jonathan Newton | The Washington Post | Getty Images
File photo: The Washington Redskins logo patch on the uniform of Safety Brandon Meriweather at FedEx field on November 3, 2013 in Landover, MD.

If you've never heard of the National Football League team the Washington Athletes, it's for a good reason: they don't actually exist – at least not yet.

However, if a group of three NFL fans have their way, the Internet will replace all mentions of the Washington Redskins with what they're calling "less offensive options."

In a petition aimed at Redskins owner Dan Snyder, three friends from New York and San Francisco are injecting themselves into a heated debate over the team's name, which has withstood decades of football but is now coming under heavy fire.

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The group's petition insists the Redskins name "is racist, yet our nation's capital plays host to an NFL organization that uses the term as its team name... It's offensive. It's unnecessary. And it needs to be replaced."

Writer Eric Schlakman and a couple of his buddies have created a web extension dubbed "Redskins Web Skin." Once installed in any web browser of your choice, the application swaps out all "Redskins" mentions on the Internet, and in its place replaces them with words like "Citizens" or "Americans."

Schlackman and his cohorts have even come up with their own campaign hashtag, "#FailtotheRedskins," to promote the cause.

"We just wish they were losing their name as easily as they've been losing games," Schlakman told CNBC about the team, which currently has just three wins and sits at the bottom of the NFC East division. The ultimate goal is not to earn money off the campaign, but to force change for what the writer says is "the most egregious" team name in professional sports.

The Redskins are at the center of a debate on whether its team name honors Native Americans and their heritage or disparages them. According to a recent poll from the Washington City Paper, 53 percent of D.C. residents said they think the term is disparaging to Native Americans.

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They're not the only ones. Earlier this year, Patent Office regulators moved to strip the team of its patent on the Redskins name.

Schlakman said his crew already received a thank-you note from the Oneida Indian Nation, a tribe that has voiced its discontent with the Redskins' team name by launching a national campaign of its own—asking Washington to "Change The Mascot."

This week, the Redskins' official Twitter account took heat from followers after an "awkward" tweet in which the team wished fans a happy Thanksgiving. The national holiday, of course, is not celebrated by many Native Americans, but is seen as a day of mourning.

The team did not immediately respond to a request from CNBC on whether it is currently reconsidering a name change.