"The Redskins name is a racist name," Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, opening his customary morning remarks with football as the chamber takes up closely watched international trade legislation.
Reid has spoken out against the Redskins name for more than a year now, and his latest remarks were prompted by the NFL's decision Monday to suspend Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for four games and fine his team $1 million after an investigation found it probable that the team had illegally deflated footballs during last season's championship run.
"I find it stunning that the National Football League is more concerned about how much air is in a football than with a racist franchise name that denigrates Native Americans across the country," he said. "I wish the commissioner would act as swiftly and decisively in changing the name of the D.C. team as he did about not enough air in a football."
And then Reid moved on to the trade legislation.
While the timing of Reid's remarks was unexpected, his interest in the Redskins name is nothing new: He spearheaded a letter co-signed by 48 other Democratic senators criticizing the name and was sent a year ago to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: "The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur," the letter read. "We urge the NFL to formally support and push for a name change for the Washington football team."
The team replied to Reid in a letter of its own: "Our use of ‘Redskins’ as the name of our football team for more than 81 years has always been respectful of and shown reverence toward the proud legacy and traditions of Native Americans,” team president Bruce Allen wrote.