Virginia Politicians Steer Clear of Redskins Controversy

Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 07:01 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Neither GOP Virginia senate candidate Ed Gillespie nor his opponent, incumbent Sen. Mark Warner, plan to take a stand on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's announcement Wednesday that it was canceling the Washington Redskins' trademark registration, The Hill reported.

The patent office said that under trademark law names may not be "disparaging."

While the pros and cons of the professional football team's name are debated around the state, Warner is sticking by his original statement that "it's not for Congress to dictate what the league does," the Hill reported.

Warner said that "over time, team names will change to reflect the times, as happened with the Washington Wizards." The Wizards, Washington's National Basketball Association team, was formerly called the Bullets.

Gillespie took a similar stance. A statement from his spokesman read: "The Redskins are appealing the ruling, and it will work its way through the courts again. As a senator, Ed will focus on creating jobs, raising take-home pay, holding down health care costs and reducing energy prices, not telling private team owners what they should or shouldn't call their teams."

As a Democratic candidate, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe had taken a similar position saying he didn't believe "the governor ought to be telling private businesses what they should do about their business." At the time, his GOP opponent, Ken Cuccinelli, said he, too, would leave the name "up to them entirely" though he said it would be hard to leave "80 years of history" behind.

The issue is just too inflammatory, said Tom Davis, a former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia. "Not every decision is a political decision. Ask me what Congress has to do with this," the Hill reported.

With polls showing Warner leading Gillespie, the incumbent does not want to do anything that would push away culturally conservative, working-class, middle-aged men who have strong feelings on the issue.

By the same token, Gillespie is wary of alienating fiscally conservative, though culturally liberal, Northern Virginia voters, analysts say, according to the Hill.

Most Democratic senators joined with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in writing to team owner Dan Snyder to change the Redskins name.

Besides Warner, Virginia's other Democratic senator, Tim Kaine, was among the five Democratic senators who did not sign the letter,  NBC Washington reported.

Kaine is in favor of a name change but did not like the tone of the letter, according to NBC.

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