Harry Reid predicts Redskins name changes within three years

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. faces reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, following a closed-door Democratic policy meeting. The Senate seemed ready Tuesday to vote preliminary approval of a sprawling Democratic bill expanding health, education and other benefits for veterans, but the election-year measure faced conservative opposition and an uncertain fate as Republicans try to make it smaller and find ways to pay for it. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) predicted Thursday that the Redskins will change their name within three years.

Reid said he was unimpressed by the Redskins’ new charitable endeavor for Native Americans, the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, which was launched earlier this week. The team announced the creation of the foundation after conducting four months of research into Native American issues and opinions, a process that included visits to 26 Indian reservations in 20 states.

The team also announced that it had distributed “over 3,000 cold-weather coats to several tribes, as well as shoes to players on boys and girls basketball teams,” and that it “assisted in the purchase of a new backhoe for the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska.”

Reid, though, called the effort “a phony deal, like everything [owner Dan Snyder has] done.”

“Dan Snyder, he’s got a great new deal,” Reid said in a phone conversation. “He’s going to throw a few blankets to the Indians and get a tax deduction for it. I can’t imagine why the man doesn’t realize that the name is going to change. It’s only a question of when it’s going to change. That’s the only question.”

Reid compared the situation to that at the University of North Dakota. Las Vegas multimillionaire Ralph Engelstad, from Reid’s home state, built an impressive arena for the university’s hockey team, leveraging his influence to encourage the school to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. Under pressure from the NCAA, the school still wound up dropping the nickname.

“And Snyder has to realize, he is on the losing side of history,” Reid said. “And the sooner he does it, the better off we are. The Wizards, you know, they were the Washington Bullets. With all the killing that took place, the murders in Washington, Abe Pollin – a very nice man – decided I don’t need any of this. So they changed it to the Washington Wizards. We’re all used to the Washington Wizards. And I don’t know what [the Redskins will] change the name to, but we’ll get used to it really quick.”

Reid has spoken out on the Redskins before, telling The Hill in December that “we live in a society where you can’t denigrate a race of people.” And several other high-profile politicians have taken similar stances. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) wrote a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in February, calling the team’s name “a racial slur” and urging Goodell to formally oppose it. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), with Cole a co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, reacted angrily to Snyder’s foundation earlier this week.

“Team owner Dan Snyder wants to keep profiting from his team’s racist brand and use those profits to attempt to buy the silence of Native Americans with a foundation that is equal parts public relations scheme and tax deduction,” she said in a press release.

Earlier this month, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office should stop issuing the trademark for the team’s name. And Reid argued that the end game is approaching.

“I think the name will be changed within the next three years,” he said on Thursday. “You know, I may slip a year or two, but I think it’s just a question of time. Because Native Americans are organized. We have Native Americans who now are not all poor. We’ve got these Indian gaming establishments who have money, who are gonna help with this. And Dan Snyder’s not the only person in the world with money.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · March 27

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