Tuesday, August 5, 2014


I blogged about Daniel Snyder and his (American) football team last November, hoping to add some small voice to the impressive collection of voices already calling upon the embattled owner to discontinue the franchise’s nickname and logo. Since then, Snyder has experienced considerable additional pressure to recast the team’s image—including the “Proud to Be” television advertisement sponsored by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation—but he seems even more determined to retain a brand that slurs Native Americans. The National Football League has not demonstrated obvious interest in addressing the matter, despite the example set by the National Basketball Association in the wake of Donald Sterling’s comments that offended African Americans.

The NBA of course levied a staggering $2.5 million fine against Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise, and banned him from the league for life. (He may lose ownership of the team, as well.) Sterling’s words, recorded by a female associate, drew wide condemnation from many quarters, including the team’s corporate sponsors, prominent athletes across the country, and President Obama. I see little difference between Sterling’s hurtful comments and the symbols of Snyder’s franchise, except that the nickname and logo of Snyder’s team appear every day—and are mentioned every day—online, in news broadcasts, and in print, all across the country. Should we, as Americans, punish one example of prejudice but leave another example alone?

The Washington Wizards NBA franchise discontinued the Bullets name more than fifteen years ago. Not only has the team has survived the switch, but it has relocated itself (from Maryland) to downtown D.C., where it has contributed to the renewal of the Penn Quarter. Snyder’s franchise, however, plays in Maryland, and as such, both parts of the team name should be scrapped. In the meantime, I call upon leaders everywhere to join a growing group of institutions and individuals in addressing Snyder’s team as the Washington Football Team, or better yet, the Landover Football Team, to reflect geographical accuracy. Joe Gibbs, after all, coached Washington toward three super bowl wins at RFK Stadium, in D.C. proper, but Snyder’s team has largely sputtered at Landover’s FedEx Field.

Critics will point to a handful of recent polls that show broad support for the name, even among Native Americans, despite the fact that the National Congress of American Indians and several tribes support the change. I can’t imagine a scenario in which the NAACP, for example, would disparage the remarks made by Donald Sterling, but polls would show broad support for the Clippers owner among African Americans. Even if a significant majority of Americans truly do approve of the Landover Football Team’s nickname, it’s obvious that a significant number of people take offense from it; hence the recent Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation ad that ran during the NBA finals. Surely Daniel Snyder—net worth $1.2 billion—could afford to rebrand the Landover Football Team, and turn a profit, to boot. Perhaps the goodwill inherent in such a move would lead to a few wins on the gridiron.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press.