By Blake Neff
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) called Friday for the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on the Washington Redskins' NFL team name.
Waxman, the Democrats’ ranking member on the committee, called for the hearing in a letter to the panel chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.). [READ THE LETTER HERE.]
The difference, Waxman said, is that while Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has been defended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“In the case of the Washington football team, the offensive conduct is public, not private. But it is being condoned and defended by National Football League,” he said.
The Redskins' name is condemned by some Native American groups as racist and offensive.
The Commerce Committee oversees professional sports, and Waxman’s letter cites the numerous tax benefits received by the NFL and its teams to justify the committee’s involvement on the matter.
Waxman also likened efforts to change the team's name to efforts more than 50 years ago to racially integrate the team.
The Redskins was the last team to integrate in the NFL and only did so after pressure from Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, among others.
“A congressional hearing could be a similar catalyst for action today,” said Waxman. “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.”
Waxman is not the first Democrat to express displeasure with the Redskins' name recently. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has repeatedly urged the NFL to force a name change, citing the Sterling case as precedent. Recently, Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) also said he would "probably" change the name were he in Snyder's shoes.