Lewis, Holmes Norton urge Washington Redskins to change team name

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) are urging the Washington Redskins to seriously consider changing the team’s name.

Lewis, a civil-rights hero, told The Hill that “we have to be sensitive” to the concerns that the name is offensive to some people. He said the NFL team “should consider” a name change,  pointing out that he has been asked similar questions about the Atlanta Braves’s “Tomahawk Chop,” which has attracted criticism from Native American groups. 

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In a phone interview on Monday, Norton said, “Nobody would let a comparable name to blacks stand.”

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) member noted that the Washington Wizards used to be called the Bullets, adding that the team enjoyed goodwill for the name change and that the Redskins would benefit similarly. 

The controversy over the Redskins name has intensified in recent weeks. Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray suggested a team name would need to be made if the team wants to move its home games from Maryland to the nation’s capital.

In January, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told Roll Call that the team should find a new name.

Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, said at the time, “It’s not a term of respect and it’s needlessly offensive to a large part of our population.”

Asked 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.”

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), another CBC member, said last week he isn’t bothered by the Redskins name. 

“It’s not offensive to me,” Rush said, adding that his focus right now is on the sequester.

 The Redskins declined to comment for this article.