WASHINGTON — Sen. Harry Reid on Wednesday renewed pressure on the Washington Redskins to change its name to anything not offensive to Native Americans, and began to apply it to the commissioner of the National Football League as well.
Reid, the Senate majority leader from Nevada, said he applauded Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association who on Tuesday imposed a lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racial comments that shook the league.
“I wonder today if the leadership of the National Football League, the NFL, if they have taken notice?” Reid said in a Senate speech. “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 several times has blasted Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who says the team name reflects its tradition and he would not change it. This time, he expanded his criticism to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for inaction on the matter.
“For far too long the NFL has been sitting on its hands doing nothing while an entire population of Americans has been denigrated,” Reid said. “I believe Roger Goodell is a good man but it’s time for this good man to act.”
Snyder has resisted calls from tribal groups and various public officials for a name change. In March he announced he was starting a foundation to benefit Native Americans, after saying he and his staff visited 26 tribal reservations in 20 states.
Reid denounced the move as a “phony deal” that will allow Snyder to reap tax breaks for donating “a few blankets to the Indians.”
Reid on Wednesday cranked up his criticism again.
He noted that Abe Pollin, the late owner of the Washington Wizards, changed the local NBA team’s name from the Washington Bullets at a time Washington, D.C., was wracked with gun violence.
“The Wizards have a good name,” he said, adding they are enjoying success so far in the NBA playoffs as well.
As for the Redskins, “It is untoward of Daniel Snyder to try and hide behind tradition,” Reid said. “What tradition? A tradition of racism is all that name leaves in its wake.”
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at STetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC.