Friday, November 23, 2001

Officials in Loudoun and Prince George’s counties say they will not follow the D.C. Council’s lead in asking the Washington Redskins to change the team’s name because it might offend some American Indians.
The council’s resolution, which does not carry the force of law, asks the team to change its name before next year’s football season. It was introduced by council member Carol Schwartz and adopted 12-1 by the D.C. Council on Nov. 6.
Mrs. Schwartz, at-large Republican, introduced the same measure last week at a meeting of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ board of directors, which she chairs. The board voted to postpone action until the council of goverments’ January meeting.
“I will not be supportive of this resolution,” Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York said. “I was disappointed that no attempt was made to call me up and discuss this matter before coming to the council of governments with it, since we host the Redskins corporate offices and training facilities.”
The team’s headquarters, Redskins Park, is located in Ashburn in Loudoun County.
In Prince George’s County, where the Redskins play home games at FedEx Field, County Executive Wayne Curry chose not to comment. But County Council member Audrey Scott said the Prince George’s County Council has no plans to adopt any resolutions similar to the District’s.
“Quite honestly, it is not an issue with the County Council,” Mrs. Scott said.
She said that while she would be open to examining the issue if an American Indian asked, “I have not been approached not one letter, not one phone call, not one e-mail in my seven years on the council.”
Harold Brazil, the lone D.C. council member to oppose the resolution, questioned whether the District has the standing to make such a request of the team.
“The City Council has absolutely no influence or control over the team and certainly no power or authority in Prince George’s County, Maryland,” he said.
Mr. Brazil, at-large Democrat, called passage of the resolution a “meaningless, empty gesture,” since the team doesn’t play in the District, the ownership is not in the District and the players generally don’t reside in the District.
“I have only seen them called the Washington Redskins,” Mrs. Schwartz responded. “That’s why we have an interest in this. They are not called the Landover, Maryland, Redskins.”
Mrs. Schwartz said she is optimistic the council of governments will adopt the resolution when it comes to a vote in January.
“The team name ‘Redskins’ is offensive and hurtful to many Native Americans who are citizens of this nation and to all people who reject racial stereotypes and bigotry as socially and morally unacceptable,” her resolution reads.
Mr. York, who represents Loudoun County on the council’s board of directors, criticized Mrs. Schwartz for introducing the resolution before the board.
“I think [Mrs. Schwartz] was wrong in using the council of governments to bring this politically correct statement,” he said.
The council of governments represents 17 local jurisdictions surrounding the District. Its members meet monthly to address regional issues, such as the environment, economic development, public safety and transportation.
Mrs. Schwartz gained support from the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, an organization headquartered in Northwest and dedicated to unifying the major faith traditions in the region. The conference adopted its own resolution Nov. 13, independently of the D.C. Council, that calls the term ‘Redskins’ a “deeply offensive racial slur.”
“Such stereotypes undercut and diminish what it means to be a human being,” conference director Clark Lobenstine said.
Last year, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office found in favor of seven American Indians who filed a complaint against the Redskins in 1992.
Saying the name “may disparage Native Americans and it may bring them into contempt or disrepute,” the board ordered the cancellation of the federal registration of seven Redskin trademarks, including the team’s name and helmet logo under a 1946 federal trademark law that says names cannot be protected if they are “disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable.”
The team is appealing the ruling, which does not stop it from using the name, but could prevent it from keeping the exclusive trademark rights.
Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson indicated the team has no plans to change its name.
“We take anyone’s opinions and concerns seriously, even if we don’t agree with them,” Mr. Swanson said. He said the Redskins, who have used the name since 1933 when the team played in Boston, have always portrayed Indians as figures of dignity, competitiveness and sportsmanship.
“We don’t have funny mascots. We don’t have caricatures of Native Americans as logos,” Mr. Swanson said.
The last D.C. Council attack on the team’s name came in 1992. A month after the Redskins defeated the Denver Broncos 37-24 in Super Bowl XXVI, the D.C. Council entertained a resolution introduced by then-member William Lightfoot, at-large independent, condemning the team name. The measure, which died in committee, had the support of then-Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly.
A Washington Post editorial advocated changing the name, and WTOP radio announced it would no longer use the name in its broadcasts. WTOP lifted its ban in 1994.
In 1993, during negotiations for a new stadium in the District, several lawmakers led by Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, himself an American Indian, expressed interest in using a stadium deal as leverage to convince then-team owner Jack Kent Cooke to change the name.
But Mr. Cooke never wavered in his commitment to retain the name.
The Redskins moved to Maryland in 1997.

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