Citing NBA’s decision on LA Clippers, Harry Reid calls on NFL to change Redskins name


Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) answers reporters' questions during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

In the wake of the NBA's decision to suspend the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) suggested Wednesday that national outrage should now be directed toward the National Football League for its refusal to change the name of the Washington Redskins.

Reid applauded NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for his "work to swiftly move to stamp out bigotry in its ranks," and said the league has set a new standard for how professional sports leagues should respond to racism. He then suggested that the NFL should take notice.

"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?" Reid asked.

He added later that it is "untoward" for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to claim that keeping the current team name is part of the Native American "tradition."

"Tradition? What tradition?" he asked. "A tradition of racism is all that name leaves in its wake. Mr. Snyder knows that in sports, the only tradition that matters is winning. So I urge Daniel Snyder to do what is morally right and remove this degrading term from the league by changing his team's name."

As he did during a recent Washington Post interview on the subject, Reid cited how Abe Pollin, the late owner of the Washington Wizards, had changed the team's name from the Washington Bullets because he didn't want the team to be associated with gun violence.

"We all followed the Washington Wizards the last couple of weeks. They are now in the second round of the playoffs. We were all happy about that," Reid said. "They have struggled for a long time. We support, the American people support, the Wizards. People in the D.C. metropolitan area. The Wizards have a good name. Don't you think Daniel Snyder can come up with a name? It should be easy. He could invite the fans to choose a name. He could ask high school kids to come up with a name."

Reid's decision to equate the Clippers scandal to the Redskins name issue echoes statements made Tuesday by some Native American leaders.

Ray Halbritter, a representative of the Oneida Indian Nation, said Tuesday that the NBA's decision to remove Clippers owner Donald Sterling "has shown leagues like the NFL that they have a moral responsibility to take disciplinary action against people like Dan Snyder, who also continues to proudly promote bigotry with the use of a dictionary-defined racial slur as his team's name."

In his interview with The Post, Reid predicted that the Redskins would change their name within three years and blasted Snyder's decision to establish a foundation to assist Native American communities. Reid called the effort "a phony deal, like everything [owner Dan Snyder has] done."

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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