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.