Politicians have played a major role in applying pressure on the Washington Redskins to change their name.
The political winds on the team's name have shifted significantly over the last several years. Members weren't focused on the issue in prior years, but now many of them are, including Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe missed opportunity of JASTA States urged to bolster election security How the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill MORE (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Both Reid and Pelosi told The Hill first that the Redskins needed a name change, but the biggest news event for critics of the team's moniker happened in the fall of 2013 when President Obama tackled the issue. He said, “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that the name of my team — even if they've had a storied history — was offending a sizable group of people, I'd think about changing it."
The Redskins have fired back at members, including Reid, and have cited polling showing that most Native Americans don't back a name change. The team and backers of the Redskins keeping their name have mocked lawmakers for zeroing in on this issue instead of other matters facing the country.
The following is a timetable of the Redskins name change controversy.
Nov. 16, 2009 — Supreme Court turns down appeal from Suzan Shown Harjo to change the Redskins name after a 17-year court battle between the team and a group of Native Americans.
Jan. 17, 2013 — Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who is Native American, tells Roll Call that the Redskins should change their name, calling it "very offensive."
March 5, 2013 — Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) tell The Hill that the Redskins should seriously consider changing their name.
March 7, 2013 — A group of Native Americans argue that the Redskins franchise should lose its trademark protection in a 90-minute hearing before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
May 10, 2013 — Redskins owner Dan Snyder tells USA TODAY that he will "never" change the team's name.
Sept. 12, 2013 — Nine House legislators call on the Redskins to change their name in a letter.
Oct. 5, 2013 — President Obama tells the Associated Press: “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that the name of my team — even if they've had a storied history — was offending a sizable group of people, I'd think about changing it. All these mascots and team names related to Native Americans, Native Americans feel pretty strongly about it. And I don't know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have about these things. I don't want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team and rightly so."
Oct. 14, 2013 — In an interview with The Hill, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Dels. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) and Norton predict that the Redskins will change their name. McCollum, co-chairwoman of the Congressional Native American Caucus, called it a "slur" and said Snyder is "in denial." Faleomavaega said the National Football League should intervene and Holmes Norton expressed confidence that Snyder's hand will be forced. Holmes Norton correctly predicts that the Patent and Trademark Office would take action.
Oct. 28, 2013 — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tells The Hill that the Redskins should change their name.
Dec. 19, 2013 — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tells The Hill that the Redskins need a name change: “I think [Washington Redskins owner Dan] Snyder is so shortsighted on this...We live in a society where you can’t denigrate a race of people. And that’s what that is. I mean, you can’t have the Washington Blackskins." The Redskins say they "strongly disagree" with Reid.
Jan. 24, 2014 — Oneida Indian Leader Ray Halbritter takes Redskins name complaint to the United Nations in New York.
Feb. 9, 2014 — Cole and Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) urge the Redskins to change their name in a letter. The Redskins fire back in a strongly worded statement suggesting Congress should be focusing on other matters.
March 25, 2014 — Snyder says the team name will remain the same: “For too long, the struggles of Native Americans have been ignored, unnoticed and unresolved. As a team, we have honored them through our words and on the field, but now we will honor them through our actions. We commit to the tribes that we stand together with you, to help you build a brighter future for your communities.”
May 21, 2014 — Fifty senators send a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell petitioning for the Redskins name change.
May 23, 2014 — Bruce Allen, general manager of the Washington Redskins, sends a letter to Reid defending the name.
June 18, 2014 — The Patent and Trademark Office cancels the team’s trademarks, claiming they are “disparaging to Native Americans.” Redskins vow to appeal the decision.