Local lawmakers don’t back formal action on Redskins name change

Several local lawmakers said Monday that they support a name change for the Washington Redskins football franchise, but none appeared inclined to support congressional action to do so.

“I think it would be wise and appropriate for Dan Snyder to consider changing the name,” Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement. “I hope there will continue to be conversations that lead to resolution on this issue.”

The long-fought battle over the Redskins name — which several national groups, including the Oneida Indian Nation, have deemed racist — resurfaced this week when Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) wrote a letter to National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell urging the league to formally support a name change for the franchise.

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has previously said that, despite mounting pressure, he does not plan to change the name.

The letter re-sparked a conversation about what, if any, action Congress could take to force a name change, but several members whose districts include the sections of Maryland that comprise the heart of the Redskins fan base said that although they support a name change, they do not think Congress should take formal action on the matter.

Bridgett Frey, a spokeswoman for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), said, “As a fan, Congressman Van Hollen believes the best approach to the overall question would be for the team to voluntarily change its name — as the Washington Bullets did — but does not believe that congressional action should be taken to force that change.”

Several other members of the Maryland delegation echoed that sentiment.

In a statement, a Redskins spokesman brushed aside the lawmakers’ letter to Goodell, saying, “Don’t they have more important issues to worry about than a football team’s name?” Meanwhile, in a statement released Monday, Ray Halbritter, an Oneida Indian Nation spokesman, said, “The NFL is a publicly subsidized $9 billion-a-year brand with global reach, and it is using those public resources and that brand to promote a dictionary defined racial slur.”

Wesley Lowery covers Capitol Hill for The Fix and Post Politics.
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