Norton Calls On NFL Commissioner To Force Redskins Name Change

June 23, 2020 by Gaspard Le Dem
Washington Redskins warming up before their regular season Week 17 game against the Dallas Cowboys. (Photo courtesy The Washington Redskins media page)

WASHINGTON — D.C.’s non voting delegate Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton on Monday renewed her call for the National Football League to scrap the name of D.C.’s football franchise, the Washington Redskins, which has long been criticized for being racist.

“I again call on Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington football team and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to recognize this historic moment and change the offensive, racist name of the team,” said Norton in a statement.

Her plea comes amid nationwide protests against systemic racism and just days after a Washington Post editorial urged the NFL to step in to change the moniker if Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, was unwilling to do so himself.

For years, Snyder has had his sights on moving the team back to the District from its current home at FedEx Stadium, in neighboring Prince George’s County, Maryland. His ambitions have been met with fierce opposition from local politicians who say the team has no business playing on District turf until it finds a new name. 

“The name has cost Snyder far more than it could possibly be worth,” said Norton on Monday. “The racist name stands in the way of the team playing in the nation’s capital at the RFK Stadium site, Snyder’s preferred venue.”

Snyder’s lease at FedEx Stadium is set to expire in 2027, but he has balked at the idea of a name switch, forcefully denying that the team’s trademark, which has been in use since 1933, is offensive to Native Americans. “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER––you can use caps,” Snyder told USA Today in 2013.

The Redskins moved to FedEx Field in 1996 after playing for more than three decades at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, about 2 miles East of the U.S. Capitol on the Anacostia River.

The crumbling stadium, which hasn’t been used for more than a decade, is now slated for demolition in 2021. Norton has proposed a bill to allow the District to purchase the site, which is on federal land, from the U.S. Department of the Interior at market price.

But D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in 2018 broke ground on a $489 million project to build a new sports venue on the stadium’s sprawling parking lot, hinting that she hopes to use the new facility to bring the Redskins back to the District.

At the time, several progressive members of the D.C. Council rebuked Bowser for not pushing the team to update its name.

“I am disappointed to hear that Mayor Bowser is trying to bring the NFL’s Washington football team back into the District of Columbia,” said D.C. Councilmember David Grosso in 2018. “Though I have been a lifetime fan of the team, I continue to be frustrated and offended by the team’s name and oppose any efforts for them to play in our city.”

Grosso also criticized the new construction for being too costly. “NFL stadiums are a waste of land and public resources,” he said. “A giant stadium that is used less than a dozen days per year takes up space that could be used for housing, parks, or other public or commercial facilities.”

The term “redskin” dates back several centuries to the colonial era of the United States when it was used as a derogatory term to refer to indigenous North American populations. Historians say its first undisputed use was in 1769.

As an alternative to the racist name, Grosso has proposed using “Redtails” in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of World War II pilots that became the first African American aviators to serve in the U.S. Army.

Meanwhile, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has reportedly been mulling the possibility of building a new stadium in northern Virginia, at a site close to the District.

Former Redskins team president Bruce Allen told local news outlet WMAL in 2019 that the team hoped to announce a final decision on its new home “within a year.”

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