DC mayor sees Hill allies in campaign for Washington Redskins name change

Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray said on Thursday that he sees momentum building on Capitol Hill for the Washington Redskins to change their team name.

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Gray told The Hill he was encouraged by comments made to the paper earlier this week by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), in which they pushed for the Redskins to change its name.

The Democrats argue that the team should consider using a name that is less offensive to Native Americans. 

Gray is vying for the football team to move its home games from Maryland to the Robert F. Kennedy stadium in D.C., which sits on federal land. And as lawmakers on Capitol Hill consider the possibility of the team relocating to a venue attached to the government's reputation, he said, members will surely debate changing the team’s name. 

“I know the issue of the name is going to be raised in the course of discussing them coming back home,” Gray said in a brief interview following an Institute for Education public policy breakfast at the Finnish Embassy on Thursday.

“And there are going to be people who will be bitterly opposed to that.”

Gray said he thinks the team’s owners would like to move their home games back to D.C. as well, but that their contract with FedEx Field in Maryland runs through 2026.

“I think the team wants to come back. I don’t think it’s a resistance on the part of the team ownership. I think it’s the constraints of the lease they are operating under, which doesn’t run out until 2026,” said Gray.

“That’s right around the corner,” he said.  

In making her case, Norton has noted that the Washington Wizards used to be called the Bullets — which critics felt had negative associations to the city's high crime rate. She added that the Wizards enjoyed goodwill for the name change and that the Redskins would benefit similarly. 

Asked by The Hill earlier this week if she thinks the Redskins will eventually change, Norton responded, “I certainly do. But nothing happens without pushing and shoving ... I am a fan of the Redskins. I’m just not a fan of their name.”