The Arlington County Board on Tuesday joined the call for the Washington Redskins to change the team’s name, calling it a “objectionable ... a racist slur and derogatory.”
J. Walter Tejada (D), the board’s vice chairman, proposed the resolution. While the team historically has bound the region together, he argued, its name “serves to divide us, diminishes our humanity and erodes our integrity.”
The resolution passed 3-0-2, with John Vihstadt (I) and Libby Garvey (D) abstaining. Both said they agreed with the sentiment of the resolution, but felt it was not the job of a local government to interfere in a private company’s decision.
The other three board members, however, described the vote as firmly within Arlington’s history of resisting discrimination. Tejada cited the county’s refusal to join the Confederacy during the Civil War, its status as the first Virginia county to desegregate its schools in the 1950s and its 2007 support for immigrants.
Tejada, who immigrated to the United States from El Salvador as a youth, also said he considers the team name to be a personal insult, because he is descended from a native subgroup of the Mayans.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has been aggressively pushing to relocate the team’s stadium to Northern Virginia from Maryland. Tejada said a new name on the team would cause it to be“welcomed into the commonwealth for a fresh start.”
Arlington is the second local government to call on owner Daniel Snyder to rename the football team. The D.C. Council voted for the change in 2013. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said last year that he intended to ask that Maryland county’s council for a similar resolution, but he has not yet submitted the request.
But Loudoun County, where the team is based, voted in 2013 to defend Snyder’s right to choose the team’s name. Snyder has said he is not considering changing the name, calling it a “badge of honor.” NFL officials have told Native American leaders that they stand by the name.
Garvey said she plans to write a letter to team owner Daniel Snyder as a private citizen, expressing her disapproval of the name. Vihstadt said voters elected board members to focus on schools, transportation and public safety, “not international trade, nuclear weapons or the name of a private sports team.” He also said the resolution implied the board would welcome an NFL stadium in Arlington County, which he opposes.
Proponents said there was no such implication in the resolution. Board chair Mary Hynes (D) said Arlington, as an important part of the Washington region, had a stake in the team’s name.
“Important institutions should not have a name that denigrates people in any way,” Hynes said. She and others pointed to a 2001 resolution from the Metropolitan Council of Governments that called the team name “a demeaning and dehumanizing racist insult that embodies a history of degradation and slaughter.”
“Being a gay man no doubt has influenced my view and my impatience with any form of discrimination,” said board member Jay Fisette (D). “Words can hurt us and times have changed ... I would not like a team named the Washington Hillbillies, the Washington Wetbacks or the Washington Fairies... To many, human rights is not a core service of government. But it is a core value to me.”