DC Council Is Latest to Condemn Name of Washington Pro Football Team

Resolution Calls the Team Nickname Racist

The D.C. Council has approved a resolution to change the name of the Washington Redskins, making the local legislative body the lastest in a growing number of organizations to call for the pro football team to change what they say is a racist nickname that offends Native Americans.

Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced the resolution of changing the name of the Redskins in May. The Council passed it on Nov. 5. Grosso said in a speech that “Native Americans throughout the country consider the term ‘redskin’ a racially derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African-Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos.”

The Council’s resolution is merely a petition to the NFL and the owner of the Washington Redskins. The resolution itself cannot force a change of the name of the football team. That decision belongs to Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

In a recent letter to the public and Redskins fans, Snyder expressed his opinion on the changing of the team’s name. “Washington Redskins is more than a name we have called our football team for over eight decades. It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride and respect — the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans,” Snyder said in the letter.

Recently in a game against the Denver Broncos, demonstrators made their way to the game in Denver to protest the team’s use of the name Redskins. According to a CBS News Report, Gerald Montour, a Native American descendant, was one of many protestors who were beating drums of their ancestors in the protest. “The name ‘redskin’ is not anything of honor. It’s to remind us of how our ancestors were treated, how we were butchered, how our skin was taken to cover books,” Montour said in the report. 

U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) is also a supporter of the effort to change the name of the Redskins. “The name of the Washington football team is derogatory to the Native Americans of this country,” said Maffei in a speechon the House floor regarding the change of the Redskin’s name.  “For many Native Americans across the lands, the name of the Washington football team is a deeply personal reminder of a legacy of racism and generations of pain.”

Pete King, a senior writer who covers the NFL for Sports Illustrated, has said he will not use the term Redskin in any of his work. “I decided to stop entirely because it offends too many people, and I don’t want to add to the offensiveness. Some people, and some Native American organizations-such as the highly respected American Indian Movement-think the nickname is a slur.” King said in one of his recent writings for Sports Illustrated. 

A poll by Oneida Indian Nation shows that if the Redskins change their name, 55 percent of D.C. area residents said it would not affect their support of the team, while 25 percent said that it would decrease their support. “I think they should change their name. They could easily change their name and it wouldn’t take anything away from the team,” said Elias Kibler, a season ticket holder for the Redskins and a Washington resident. “If they don’t change their name, however, they could lose fans, money and advertisements,” Kibler said.

President Obama even weighed in on the conversation. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said that team names such as the Redskins offend such a large number of people that nostalgia alone is not enough to reason to keep the name in place. “I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things,” Obama said. Obama said that if he were the owner of the team and knew the name was offensive to many people, then he would “think about changing it.”