With the location of a new Washington Redskins stadium still up in the air, elected officials are making one thing clear: if the team wants to build at the RFK Stadium site, the name of the team has to go.
Changing the name of the Redskins isn’t a new goal of Washington elected officials, but in these times of Black Lives Matter and a serious examination of this country’s history and future, the name of the Redskins is a sore issue. George Preston Marshall, who moved the team to Griffith Stadium from Boston while keeping the Redskins moniker, opposed racial integration and was the last NFL owner to sign a Black player—Bobby Mitchell in 1962—only after an intervention from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, who threatened to withhold permission for the team to move to then-D.C. Stadium. Last month Events DC removed the statue of George Preston Marshall from the RFK Stadium site, issuing the following statement:
This morning, Events DC removed the George Preston Marshall memorial statue that stood out front of RFK Stadium. This symbol of a person who didn’t believe all men and women were created equal and who actually worked against integration is counter to all that we as people, a city, and nation represent. We believe that injustice and inequality of all forms is reprehensible, and we are firmly committed to confronting unequal treatment and working together toward healing our city and country.
Removing this statue is a small and an overdue step on the road to lasting equality and justice. We recognize that we can do better and act now. We’ve heard from many of our stakeholders in the community, and we thank you. Allowing the memorial to remain on the RFK Campus goes against Events DC’s values of inclusion and equality and is a disturbing symbol to many in the city we serve.
Previous efforts to force a name change made little headway or created much of a public stir: polls showed Native Americans were not offended by the name, and NFL owners showed little interest in picking up the cause. Snyder insists the name is an honorific and not a racial slur. But we are in different times now, with rapid change forced by the #BLM movement that’s expanded to include indigenous peoples.
It’s not clear whether Redskins owner Snyder sees the RFK Stadium site as a leading contender: early stadium renderings showed a design reminiscent of RFK, but since then Maryland and Virginia officials have wooed the team with the promised of legalized gambling at a new facility. But polls show tepid enthusiasm for any public funding of a new Redskins stadium at the RFK Stadium site, despite the general feeling that it would be a boost for the team to return to the site of its glory days. Still, without a name change, there’s little chance Congress would pass necessary legislation to allow a new Redskins stadium, per the Washington Post:
That was the unequivocal message from Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives; D.C. Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio; and U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, in separate telephone interviews with The Washington Post on Wednesday.
“I call on Dan Snyder once again to face that reality, since he does still desperately want to be in the nation’s capital,” Norton said. “He has got a problem he can’t get around — and he particularly can’t get around it today, after the George Floyd killing.”
Said Falcicchio: “There is no viable path, locally or federally, for the Washington football team to return to Washington, D.C., without first changing the team name.”
According to the Post, Snyder does favor a return of the team to the District and in the past had assumed he could finesse the name issue while procuring enough political support to the District acquiring the RFK Stadium site from the federal government. But things are different now both in the sphere of public opinion and the Redskins—Bruce Allen, who also was an advocate for the Redskins name, is out as team president after dragging the franchise into the ground—may find that change is good for the team as well.
Rendering courtesy Bjarke Ingels Group.
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