Congress to consider bill offering RFK Stadium land to NFL team once it drops “Redskins” name

There’s been talk for years that one condition of Washington’s NFL team getting a new stadium in D.C. would be changing its name from a pejorative term for an entire race of people based on their skin color, and now that the George Floyd protests have led to a mass rethinking of corporate racist imagery from Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben to possibly the Cleveland Indians, the time seems more ripe than ever for Washington team owner Dan Snyder to consider ditching “Redskins” as well. But where past discussions were always more in the “get rid of your godawful team name and then we’ll talk” vein, yesterday D.C. Congressional representative Eleanor Holmes Norton declared that she’s introducing a bill to … well, let’s start with how NBC Sports Washington reported this after Norton went on its football podcast yesterday (not yet posted on its website as of Tuesday morning, it looks like), then try to unpack what it actually means:

D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is prepared to bring a bill to Congress to buy the federal land that houses RFK Stadium in an effort to get a new facility built for the Washington football team.

As soon as the Redskins change their name.

“I certainly will. This is unused land. Unused Federal land. And the District can’t afford, because we have a height limit, to have any land go that goes unused. I couldn’t get this bill through even when Republicans controlled the House,” Norton said Monday. “So I now believe I can get it through only after the name is changed for the good of the District of Columbia.”

Speaking exclusively with the Redskins Talk Podcast, Norton explained that a new stadium on the RFK site will make a tremendous economic impact for both the citizens of D.C. and for Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

“Everybody wants to come to the nation’s capital. Events benefit tremendously by coming to the nation’s capital,” the congresswoman said. “But you’ve got to have a place to hold those events. There was only one place to hold those events. And [not having] that place has – for no good reason – cost all those involved, including the District of Columbia, but above all Dan Snyder, a boatload, indeed a fortune, in revenue.”

So, the first part of this makes no sense: Congress doesn’t need to buy federal land, because it’s already federal land. If this is the same bill that Norton proposed back in March 2019 and later nixed by the White House — which she seems to be implying by saying “this bill” — it was actually to sell the RFK Stadium land to D.C. for fair market value once the team name issue was resolved, with D.C. presumably figuring out from there what it wants to offer to Snyder in terms of a stadium deal.

As for a stadium making “a tremendous economic impact for the citizens of D.C.,” there’s tons of reasons to believe that’s not true; yes, D.C. has more to gain by luring in people from outside the city since so much of the local population would otherwise stay home in the burbs, but that still doesn’t likely raise the impact level to “tremendous.” And in the abbreviated quotes provided, Norton doesn’t appear to be leaning heavily on that part anyway: She’s more trying to dangle that “boatload” of revenue in front of Snyder in hopes of getting him to agree to this quid pro quo.

That’s something that’s seemed unlikely for years, since Snyder loves the team name so much that he’s resisted all attempts to change, including pleas from a giant water-drop mascot, while trying to buy Native American support with a foundation donating to tribal causes; as one FoS reader originally from the D.C. area noted to me this morning, a football name change there would feel like a seismic shift akin to the Berlin Wall coming down. But then, that’s how historical change tends to happen — either not at all or all at once — so maybe this will be the moment that Snyder chooses to go along with what many people have been clamoring for and change the name. Let’s just hope that he doesn’t manage to leverage that decision into getting paid handsomely with public dollars in exchange for doing what other corporations are doing just because it’s right — or because they want to look like they’re doing what’s right, anyway.

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31 comments on “Congress to consider bill offering RFK Stadium land to NFL team once it drops “Redskins” name

  1. Washington Sirhans at RFK 2.

    Tagline: If you can’t stand their heat get out of the kitchen.

  2. Nike has a stopping sales of Washington Redskins products, so the economics of it may force change. I am worried though that even names like Fighting Irish and ( especially)Yankees ( I am a huge Yankees fan) might be eliminated in the name of Political Correctness.

  3. In this cancel culture where something today is fine and verboten tomorrow sadly teams such as the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and Washington Redskins are feeling the heat to become politically correct. Hopefully, they stand strong and resist. Remember you can never please cancel culture. If Nike and FedEx want to drop sponsorship with the Redskins, fine, let them although Nike refusing to sell Redskins merchandise sounds like a winnable lawsuit for the Redskins. If they want the Redskins to change their name then give them the land and RFK stadium for free. That might accelerate the process. All this has done is to increase the popularity of Redskins merchandise.

    1. I’m not sure this is part of “cancel culture”.

      One could objectively say that the Redskins name is highly offensive.

    2. Also, nobody is trying to “cancel” Snyder or his team. They’re just pressuring it to change its name, after which they’ll happily go and support it. That’s kind of the opposite of cancel culture, which implies a zero tolerance policy for any past wrongdoing.

    3. Cancel Culture can even take out the Minnesota Vikings and San Diego State Aztecs. Two of my teams ( NY Islanders and Penn State Nittany Lions) are safe but I worry about the Yankees ( especially because Civil War stuff is being cancelled ( like Oregon and Oregon State’s Civil War after over 100 years)).

      1. Nobody is suggesting the Yankees change their name. What an absurd thing to be concerned about or view as even a remote possibility.

        1. I would have agreed until the very term “Civil War” was ended between Oregon and Oregon State. The name Yankees was considered a slur of Northerners by Confederates during and after the Civil War. Hence the terms Damn Yankees.” and “Carpetbagging Yankees.”

          1. Black players at both Oregon and Oregon State have been lobbying behind the scenes to lose the Civil War name for years. Just because you weren’t paying attention doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening, or that these changes occurred out of nowhere. You’re really grasping at straws to argue that Yankees would be at risk, or that descriptors for long-gone groups like Vikings or Aztecs would suddenly be targeted. It’s a bad slippery slope argument and you know it.

    4. There have been conversations for years about how the imagey and nicknames used by the Cleveland and Atlanta baseball teams have been offensive, it’s not something new. Why do you think both have moved away from using those logos? It only seems like things are bad today when they were fine tomorrow because you weren’t paying attention before.

    5. Because nothing connotes strength more than “billionaire stubbornly sticking to a racial slur of a marginalized ethnic group.” And what do you mean by nothing ever “pleasing” cancel culture? Is cancel culture anthropomorphic now? Do you have examples, or just throwing out straw men? Because I can think of quite a few examples of people or things with problematic pasts that ended up thriving when they acknowledged them, made amends, and moved on.

  4. Hi Neil,

    Do you think Snyder has been waiting for so much pressure to change the name that it is inevitable? Meaning, we are nearing a point where the NFL might press the issue. Changing a name costs lost of money. Perhaps Snyder was waiting for the NFL to provide funds? Other teams maybe? And, now he is closer to a stadium with taxpayer dollars.

    1. I think Snyder just really likes the name and doesn’t want anyone telling him what to do. But in the current climate, trading a name for access to taxpayer funds — or, if nothing else, to one more potential stadium site that he can use as leverage for taxpayer funds — may seem like a better option.

      Or not. You never can tell with sports team owners.

      1. He grew up as a fan of the team, which adds emotion to poor business/management skills on his part.

        A lot of fans seem to worry a lot about that fight song. Catchy tune that could accommodate any number of normal nouns instead of an ethnic slur. In fact, nearly any current NFL team name fits (it doesn’t rhyme).

  5. Snyder clearly loves the name. And he has gone on record multiple times saying he will ‘never’ change it.

    Changing the name (which, unlike some of the others often cited, is clearly a racist insult) will not cost money. In fact, it will make Snyder money (what? You think sports teams roll out a new special third jersey every few years because it costs them money?) – particularly if in conjunction with the a new name he bans all the old merchandise.

    I don’t know if a name change will happen or not. What I do know is that if or when it does, it will be because of financial considerations rather than political or social ones. We might be at that point. We might not.

    Kudos to the sponsors and advertisers for stepping up, albeit several decades too late. What were you waiting for?

    1. No, it is not clearly a racist insult! Polls of native Americans show much more positive responses than negative for the nickname.

      There is even a Navajo high school in Arizona that uses the nickname and warrior image.

      So who gets to speak for the Native Americans? Themselves, or the small, loud group of activists, condescending news media, and professional grievance mongers?

      1. That was a web survey, so anyone could cast a vote so long as they checked “I consider myself Native American.” More scientific polls have found otherwise:

        1. No, the 2016 Washington Post survey was conducted by phone and like the 2019 Wolvereye web based poll AND the (web hosted) Berkeley poll used self identification as the criterion for selecting the participants. In fact, if you read through the Berkeley paper, you will see they even admit they don’t have a representative sample(see page 23).

          And surely it must be conceded that the students of the Red Mesa High School Redskins on the Navajo reservation in northeast Arizona are Real Native Americans.

          So again, who speaks for them? I’m not an expert, but for something to be considered a slur, I would think that there would have to be a clear consensus on its offensiveness. Redskin does not pass this test.

      2. If you knew more Native Americans you would already know the clear majority are offended (to varying degrees admittedly). The bigger question is why people are so invested in words that hurt people.

        1. My part-Cherokee wife (a higher percentage than Elizabeth Warren) isn’t offended by the term. :>)

          1. So that’s one person.

            I’m not offended by someone calling me whitey or even honky (though that is rarely heard these days). That doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean that many others aren’t offended by it.

            I’m not clear on why you think that naming one, five or twenty people who aren’t offended by a skin colour based slur makes it not a slur anymore?

            If I can find one jewish person who isn’t offended by any of the multitude of antisemitic names/stories that get thrown around, does that mean that all those things are now ok?

            Of course not.

            I am pleased to hear your wife isn’t offended by this name. That does not change the fact that many people are offended by it.

          2. Anyone who knows social scientific research knows that polling Native Americans is incredibly difficult for a multitude of reasons. But, the fact that countless Native American nations, bands, and lodges have condemned the name should be ample enough evidence that a not-insignificant number if indigenous people find the name offensive. If a group of Navajo kids want to call themselves that – akin to Irish Catholics at Notre Dame calling themselves the Fighting Irish – that doesn’t make it okay for a White-owned pro team. Would you argue with a straight face that a team whose mascot is the n-words be okay because of NWA? Also, as someone who’s spouse is a woman of color, tokenizing your wife and treating her as a spokesperson for an entire ethnic group to justify your shitty position is gross.

          3. The comments below by John an Ian prove my point. There is broad public disagreement about whether redskin is a slur. So then, we have to turn to intent. I have yet to see any evidence that the redskin nickname was chosen and kept for 80 plus years in order to denigrate an ethnic group. And I bet that until a few rabble-rousers dragged it into the public’s consciousness in the last decade, just about zero native Americans ever wasted a second of thought on it.

            I think Snyder likes it and thinks the team’s fans like it and if he appeases at gunpoint, it will just embolden the Perpetually Aggrieved to come back looking for another scalp. Pun intended. :>)

          4. When did the comments section start hyphenating words at the end of lines? This is freaking me out, man.

          5. You have confused below with above. And many other things.

            The comments I made in no way prove your point. They utterly refute it.

            The fact that you are attempting to use this refutation as confirmation is a crystal clear example of how morally bankrupt your argument on this point is.

            Effectively what you have said, Louis, is that because you disagree with me (and also with Ian it seems) this proves there is no concensus on the issue at hand.

            It does no such thing. Nor, for example, does the fact that some caucasian MLB players in the 1930s and 40s believed black Americans to “not be human beings” (as quoted in Ken Burns’ excellent documentary on baseball) demonstrate that this racist POV was valid or created a “lack of concensus” on whether some human beings are actually human beings.

            The question I raised above remains unanswered: Are you suggesting that the fact that you found one person (in this case, your wife) who is not insulted by this slur means that it is no longer a slur and can be used freely?

            And if so, do you believe if you could find one jewish person who is not insulted by some of the appalling antisemitic slurs that get thrown at that group, that such slurs are now not offensive and can be freely used in normal conversation, or as part of a sports franchises official/trademarked. nickname?

          6. Louis, are you just intentionally misreading arguments, or do we need to be more clear? You don’t need a “consensus” to say something is offensive, and conveniently ignoring the multitude of indigenous people who don’t like the name while cherry picking examples that fit your point is evidence that you simply refuse to believe that objections to the name are illegitimate. Why is is that in any other policy or business matter you don’t need unanimous consensus, but you demand this of an entire ethnic group that has hundreds of individual tribes and bands? How is that any different from past settler colonial arguments where Whites picked which Native Americans they choose to listen to, even if they were in the minority? Hell, you list your part-Cherokee wife to buttress your argument, yet are either unaware or don’t care that the Cherokee Nation has for years opposed the name. You ask at the beginning of who “speaks” for Native Americans, but are more than willing to only listen to the voices most convenient to you. It embodies everything that frustrates activists in this climate.

            Also, the argument over the team’s name has been around for decades (in the 1970s, activists successfully lobbied to get the “scalp ’em” lyrics out of the fight song). I know that goes against your thesis that this is all the product of recent political correctness, but it’s a fact. This needs to be repeated about the racial protests: just because you weren’t personally aware of opposition to something, doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. And please, stop using your part-Cherokee wife as some kind of shield to excuse away your gross and obstinate comments on race. Using token Native individuals to defend the team’s name has long been a common ploy, something Dan Snyder himself has done over the years. If you’re going to use a part-Native person to make your point, you cannot ignore the multitude of Native organizations and nations -including but not limited to the NCAI, AIM, Shoshone, Cherokee, Sioux, Comanche, Chippewa, Navajo, and Oneida – who’ve condemned it.

  6. The gravel bike race with an ethnic slur as its name has changed it despite quite publicly saying they would not change it a few months ago (the defense was the fact it was a slur was just a coincidence as words have more than one meaning!).

    I have seen people complaining that the actual race organizers are doing this (there was an “outside” petition widely circulated against the name earlier in the year). This is fascinating as usual people can complain that organizers should be able to call their event what they want (and yet now defending the slur means actually going against the organizer!).

  7. Here is reality: Daniel Snyder is not stupid. The combination of Cancel Culture and the virus’s effect on sports will make it difficult to get a new Stadium. By getting rid of the Redskins name he can get his Stadium. It is all about money. Nothing more, nothing less.

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