California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman wants a congressional hearing on the Washington Redskins' team name, saying that it is "derogatory" and offensive.
Waxman sent a letter
to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., on Friday to call for the hearing, saying that the team's name, which has been condemned by Native American groups as being racist, should not be condoned by the National Football League.
Waxman compared the continued use of the name to the remarks made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, whom the National Basketball Association banned for life, fined, and ordered to sell the team after a tape was leaked of racist statements he made to his girlfriend.
Waxman said the NBA took action and quickly banned Sterling, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has defended Redskins' owner Dan Snyder's insistence that the team's name would not be changed, reports The Hill.
"In the case of the Washington football team, the offensive conduct is public, not private," said the Democratic lawmaker. "But it is being condoned and defended by National Football League."
Waxman is the ranking Democrat on the Commerce Committee, which oversees professional sports, and said the NFL and its teams receive numerous tax breaks and benefits to justify the committee becoming involved.
"The word 'redskin' has been described by one Native American expert as being 'the equivalent of the 'N-word,'" Waxman wrote in the letter. "Another Native American activist described it as 'one of the last vestiges of racism that is held right out in the open in America.'"
Waxman also noted that 50 years ago the Redskins were the last NFL team to racially integrate, only agreeing to do so after pressure from then-Interior Secretary Stewart Udall.
"A congressional hearing could be a similar catalyst for action today," Waxman wrote. "We could play a constructive role in challenging racism by asking Mr. Snyder and Mr. Goodell to explain in a public hearing how their actions are consistent with the public interest."
Lawmakers from both parties have called on Snyder to change the team's name. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has made repeated calls for the NFL to force the team to change the name, recently also citing the Sterling case.
Reid earlier this week jumped into an online chat
with Goodell and pushed football's top executive to "act against racism" and make the franchise pick a new team name. In the live Twitter session, Goodell was fielding questions under the hashtag #AskCommish.
"Commissioner Goodell," Reid tweeted, "do you believe you have the authority to act against racism in the NFL like Mr. Silver did in the NBA?"
Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain has also said he would "probably" change the team's name if he was Snyder, and that the team owner should meet with Native American leaders to determine what the best course of action should be.
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