The Washington Redskins name was condemned Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said the NFL should think more like the NBA as it boots L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist comments this week.
"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 speaking on behalf of Native Americans, Politico reported
. "I believe [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell is a good man, but it’s time for this good man to act. Remove this hateful term from your league’s vocabulary, follow the NBA’s example, and rid the league of bigotry and racism."
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The Democrat from Nevada went on to praise NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for handing down a lifetime ban for Mr. Sterling as well as the league's maximum $2.5 million fine. Silver will also work to sell the team to a new owner, he said.
"I, along with most all of America, applaud the NBA’s work in swiftly moving to stamp out bigotry from its ranks. Commissioner Silver and the NBA leadership have set the standard for how professional sports organizations should act in the face of racism," Reid said.
In talking about the Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, Reid said he "fails to show any leadership" and "hides behind tradition" regarding the team's name.
He then pointed to the precedent set by another D.C. team, the Washington Wizards, who changed their name 17 years ago from the Washington Bullets.
"[T]he late [former owner] Abe Pollin, a wonderful man ... saw all the gun violence and murders taking place in the D.C. area. And what did he do? He voluntarily decided that name, Washington Bullets, wasn’t any good," Reid said.
USA Today's Jarrett Bell pointed out
that Commissioner Goodell has consistently defended the Redskins name. In March, he talked about growing up in D.C. and being proud of the name, which seemed to mirror Synder's past sentiments about tradition.
Many groups, including The Oneida Indian Nation, leader of the "Change the Mascot" campaign, also said they think the NBA's recent actions set a precedent for other teams with names perceived as racist.
"The NBA has shown leagues like the NFL that they have a moral responsibility to take disciplinary action against people like Dan Snyder, who also continues to proudly promote bigotry with the use of a dictionary-defined racial slur as his team's name," Oneida representative Ray Halbritter said, according to Agence France-Presse
The Washington Redskins are among many major league teams that have come under fire in recent years for using Native American-related names, including the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.
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