Today in Vincent Gray Redskins pronouncements

November 6, 2013

The D.C. Council may consider the Redskins name “racist and derogatory,” but Gray won’t put it in those terms. (Nikki Kahn / The Washington Post)

To slake the unending thirst for important persons’ opinions on the name of the Washington Redskins, I offer the latest comments from Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who has previously expressed some thoughts on the matter and addressed it again at a Wednesday news conference, a day after the D.C. Council approved a resolution calling for a name change.

First off: Would Gray have supported the resolution were he still serving on the council?

“We can’t change the name, OK?” he said. “But if the intent of the resolution was to urge the owner to change the name of the team” — which it was — “I would have voted for it.”

On the matter of the name more generally, Gray said he is of the view that the controversy isn’t going away and that team owner Daniel M. Snyder should just save himself some grief and change the name already.

I do think that there are increasingly large numbers of people now who are speaking out on the name itself,” he said. “The owner of the team who has the ultimate authority on that has said he will never change the name. I think it would be the way to end a controversy that is probably going to needlessly escalate in the future.”

Unprompted, Gray took the opportunity to address a talking point he said he had heard in conversations with “people associated with the team in fairly high up positions.”

“I was told in one conversation that there were 81 other entities that have the same name,” he said. “I guess there would be 81 that should change their name.”

Gray then renewed a line of argument that a reason that he supports a name change is because it would be impossible for the team to return its home stadium to the federally owned RFK site otherwise: “I think it’s likely to be a huge issue. I happen to be one who would love to see the team back in the District of Columbia. I wish it would never had left in the first place, and frankly if the name is the impediment to bringing the team back then, yes, the name should be changed.”

Throughout, the mayor continued his practice of referring to the Redskins as “the Washington football team” but would not acknowledge whether he personally finds “Redskins” to be offensive.

“I think there are a number of people who find the name offensive. I suspect if there were more Native Americans in this nation, that it probably would be an even bigger controversy,” he said, adding that a name change would allow the publci to “focus then on the football.”

“Do you find the name offensive, Mr. Mayor?” said WUSA-TV reporter Bruce Johnson.

“Bruce, I don’t know how I could be more clear,” Gray said. “It is a name that I think should be changed.”

“But why?” asked WRC-TV reporter Tom Sherwood.

“Why do you think it should be changed, Tom?” Gray said. “I have said what I think clearly communicates where I stand on this issue.”

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · November 6, 2013