Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 2, 2015

Harry Reid, Citing Donald Sterling Ban, Tells NFL to End Redskins ‘Tradition of Racism’ (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Citing the NBA’s ban of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the NFL should change the name of the Washington Redskins to end the moniker’s “tradition of racism.”

“How long will the NFL continue to do nothing, zero, as one of its teams bears a name that inflicts so much pain on Native Americans?” the Nevada Democrat asked Wednesday on the Senate floor.

“It is untoward of Daniel Snyder to try and hide behind tradition. Tradition, that’s what he says, in refusing to change the name of the team. Madam President, tradition?

A tradition of racism is all that name leaves in its wake.”

Reid urged Snyder to “remove this degrading term from the league by changing his team’s name,” noting that the late Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin did that with the then-Washington Bullets.

“The Wizards have a good name. Don’t you think Daniel Snyder can come up with a name?” he asked.

But Reid said the NFL should take the decision out of Snyder’s hands.

“The National Football League should take an assist from the NBA and pick up the slack,” he said. “It would be a slam dunk. …For far too long the NFL has been sitting on its hands doing nothing while an entire population of Americans has been denigrated. …I believe [NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell] is a good man but it’s time for this good man to act. Remove this hateful term from your league’s vocabulary and rid the league of racism and bigotry. Your fans will support it.”

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton also used the Sterling incident to pressure Goodell.

“Native people, organizations that represent them, allies of every background, and Members of Congress have for years protested and demanded a change in the disparaging and racist Washington football team name, but have made no progress with the National Football League or with team owner Daniel Snyder,” she said in a statement.

“A pending legal action holds real promise, but it should never come to that. When [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver saw racism, he acted without hesitation to the acclaim of the nation. The increasing controversy and activism surrounding the name of our hometown football team are in search of a similar national sports leader. Roger Goodell, as the commissioner of his league, is inevitably that leader and stands at the crossroad of either leading the NFL to take the morally required action or condoning the current name of Washington’s football team. While the team’s attempts to trademark the team name have been turned back four times on grounds of disparagement by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and a new ruling that could result in a name change is expected soon, Commissioner Goodell must not allow the NFL to be seen kicking and screaming to rid the league of a team name that carries racist and demeaning connotations from a bygone era.”

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