The battle lines have been drawn.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder says he’ll “never” change the team’s name. Now, a member of Congress says, essentially, that the name never will last.
“This name is not likely to stand,” Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) told NBC Sports Radio Network’s The Erik Kuselias Show on Thursday morning. “It would be much better if Dan Snyder did what [Wizards owner] Abe Pollin did. Now, Abe Pollin was not criticized when he bought the so-called Washington Bullets but changed the name because he didn’t think it was particularly appropriate for a big city team to be named bullets. You know, that’s good sportsmanship.
“Here is somebody who claims that . . . who it would seem to have some kind of principled reason for keeping a name that the great majority of Native Americans find derogatory. What’s the principle? Let me tell you the opposite. Do you remember the Dan Snyder that sued the City Paper here in Washington because of an article that he regarded as derogatory but pinpointed particularly a picture that accompanied the article that he said was anti-Semitic? Here’s somebody who had his own ethic sensibilities [offended] and is unable to turn the other cheek and understand why Native Americans would feel disparaged.”
Holmes Norton, one of the U.S. Representatives who signed the letter comparing “Redskins” to other racial epithets, also addressed the absence of a unified consensus that the name “Redskins” is racially offensive.
“Who wants to have a name that some regard as derogatory?” she said. “You know why this has not received I think the kind of cache it would have received if we were talking about African-Americans or Latinos? It’s because Native Americans are less than 2 percent of the population. They are a very silent minority. Well, they don’t speak up a lot but they’ve spoken up on this count. If the other side has a good reason to keep the name then I want to hear it. So far I haven’t heard it.”
Holmes Norton made it clear that she supports the team, even if she opposes the name.
“[T]his is a team that is much beloved, and I’m one of those that is among their biggest fans – after all, I’m from D.C.,” she said. “This is not against the team, this is a matter that it seems to me if Snyder would just be grown up about it would say, ‘Wait a minute, is this where I want to make my big fight, is this where I want to be remembered for in history?’ I don’t think so.”
While she wants to see the name changed, Holmes Norton doesn’t advocate stances from players that could make the team non-competitive, such as refusing to join the Redskins as a draft pick or free agent.
“This has nothing to do with the players, this has to do with the owner and the management,” Holmes Norton said. “Please, look, if you’re good at football please come to Washington and play for us — we need you.”
The team also needs this issue to go away. We have a feeling that won’t happen any time soon.
Even if the name changes in 50 years, the controversy would linger for another 50 beyond that.