RSS
Should lawmakers force the Washington Redskins to get a new name?
Politicians threaten to get tough if team owner Dan Snyder doesn't give in
In a recent poll, 79 percent of respondents said the Washington Redskins shouldn't change their name.
In a recent poll, 79 percent of respondents said the Washington Redskins shouldn't change their name. Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
T

en members of Congress — nine Democrats and one Republican — sent a letter to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder urging him to change the football team's name, which they said is offensive to Native Americans. The note also went to the 31 other NFL franchises, as well as the league's commissioner, Roger Goodell, and the Redskins' sponsor, FedEx.

The lawmakers gave new energy to an old demand — the team has been under pressure from activists for years to get a new name. Snyder said early this month that critics should drop it. "We'll never change the name," he told USA Today. "It's that simple. Never." Should Congress devise a way to force him to change his mind?

Plenty of people think the R-word is as insulting to Native Americans as the N-word is to African Americans, and that no word with that kind of racist tinge should be tolerated by the NFL. "I am somewhat embarrassed to be a fan of a team that has such an offensive name," former congressional candidate Krystal Ball, now a co-host of MSNBC's The Cycle, says. "It's time to move on. Let it go."

Washington, D.C., Councilman David Grosso offered the team an easy fix: Change the name to Redtails to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, he suggested earlier in May. "You can still sing the song and everything," he said, singing, "Hail ... to the ... Redtails." D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has even suggested the city might link a name change to letting the team build a new stadium within the city limits.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have focused on another way to exert direct pressure on the team. Pat Garofalo at U.S. News & World Report points out that the lawmakers have alerted the NFL that they're pushing a bill that would amend the 1946 Trademark Act to cancel trademarks using the term "redskin." That, Garofalo says, would cut sharply into Snyder's income from marketing Redskins gear, because anybody would be able to slap the name on T-shirts and sell them.

So these 10 members of Congress hit on perhaps the best approach for getting Snyder to change his mind: Not going after his sense of decency, but his bottom line. [U.S. News]

But not everyone thinks Congress should wade into this fight. Abby Borovitz at MSNBC notes that 79 percent of respondents in an AP-GFX poll said the Washington Redskins shouldn't change their name, while only 11 percent said they should. And perhaps surprisingly, one group in particular isn't bothered by the team's moniker: According to the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey, 90 percent of Native Americans find the team name acceptable.

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week