A winning name change

There’s a long list of what Congress apparently can’t do: pay its bills, agree on a budget, do anything about global warming, keep assault weapons off the streets, raise the minimum wage, settle immigration reform. But there is one thing Congress can do, and should: Tell Dan Snyder to change the name of Washington’s football team.

Snyder, who might be the most hated man in Washington for many reasons, has resisted any name change for years. “We’ll never change the name,” he recently told Erik Brady of USA Today Sports. “It’s that simple. NEVER. You can use caps.” But his arguments against change are flimsy, at best.

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You can’t change the name, Snyder claims, because fans would desert the team. Nonsense — fans remained loyal to the Bullets when they became the Wizards. The only thing that matters is whether the team is winning or losing. 

But changing the name will cost too much money, Snyder whines — almost $20 million. So what? That might be a lot of money in any other sport, with any other team, but it’s peanuts in the NFL, where the average team is worth $1.1 billion. Washington’s team is the third most valuable, worth $1.7 billion, with revenue of $381 million in 2012.

Finally, Snyder argues, there’s no need to change the name because it’s part of the team’s history and tradition. And besides, he insists, it’s not an offensive term at all. It stands for strength, courage and pride, he says. Frankly, that’s not for Dan Snyder to say, no more than if he were to tell a group of African-Americans that the moniker “darkie” is really a term of respect.

The fact is, many Native Americans consider the name of Washington’s team to be racist. The Congressional Native American Caucus made that very clear in a May 13 letter to Snyder, asking him to change the team’s name. That itself should be enough to settle the question. It was enough for USA Today’s Christine Brennan and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, two of the most respected commentators in sports, who announced they will never again use the name of the team in their columns. It was even enough for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to have an apparent change of heart on the issue.

In the past, Goodell has defended Snyder. As recently as last June, he argued, in response to the Native American Caucus, that the team name “represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context.” But just last week, on Washington’s 106.7 AM radio, he told LaVar Arrington and Chad Dukes: “I think what we have to do though is, we have to listen. If one person’s offended, we have to listen.”

That test has already been met. As Brennan noted, if only some Native Americans consider the team’s name to be racist, case closed. It’s racist. Change the name. Washington will survive.


Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of The Obama Hate Machine.