- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 12, 2002

A Prince George's County official said yesterday there is no support among county residents to take up a resolution calling on the Washington Redskins to change their name.
Officials from the county, which has been the host of Redskins home games at FedEx Field in Landover since 1997, were conspicuously absent from a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' vote on Wednesday that requested that the team abandon the name because it is offensive.
County Council member Jim Estepp, one of the county's two representatives in the council of governments, said yesterday he did not attend the meeting because he had a prior engagement but added that he did not support the resolution.
"I would not have voted to change it," he said.
Mr. Estepp, a Democrat, said the issue was not "constituent-driven" in his county, where the majority of the few calls he has received favors keeping the name.
"I can only go by what I see and hear from our constituents," he said. "I haven't had, in the eight years I've been on the council, anyone approach me and say this is a big problem and we need to change the name."
The council of governments Wednesday adopted the resolution 11-2, with five abstentions.
The county's other representative in the body, County Executive Wayne Curry, also was not present for the vote. Mr. Curry, a Democrat, did not return phone messages seeking comment.
Loudoun County, where the team's corporate headquarters and practice facilities are located, registered one of the two "no" votes on the resolution.
Loudoun County Supervisor Eleanore Towe, a Democrat, said her board had addressed the issue, and members were of the opinion that it was not an issue the council of governments should be dealing with.
"Unanimously, everyone felt this was not an appropriate venue for this issue to be discussed," she said at the meeting.
The council of goverments, which represents 17 area jurisdictions, meets monthly to coordinate regional approaches to problems involving the environment, economic development, public safety and transportation.
Mr. Estepp said he also had "concerns" about whether the council should address the issue but respected the convictions of council Chairwoman Carol Schwartz, who serves on the D.C. Council.
Mrs. Schwartz, a Republican, said the name dates back to a time when bounties were placed on American Indians, and bloody scalps, or "red skins," were proof of a kill.
"It is important to note that the resolution does not demand a change, nor does it force the team to act," Mrs. Schwartz said. "We are simply stating our concern about the ongoing use of the term Redskins by the Washington franchise and requesting that it be replaced with a term that does not offend and does not hurt Native Americans and people who reject racial stereotypes, racial slurs and bigotry as socially and morally unacceptable."
But Redskins officials dispute Mrs. Schwartz's account of the origin of the word, saying the name refers to the American Indian practice of painting the faces and bodies of warriors with red clay before battle. The franchise has used the name since 1933, when the team played in Boston, and officials say they have no intention of changing it.
Mr. Estepp sided with the team.
"I don't know of any fan, including myself, that considers it a racial slur when we root for the team."
A National Football League spokesman yesterday would not comment on the vote but said ultimate authority over any name change rests not with the team owner but with league commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
"The commissioner has to approve any change to a team's name, logo or colors," said league spokesman Greg Aiello.
In the past, Mr. Tagliabue has said he would not force the Redskins or the Kansas City Chiefs, whose name has also drawn complaints from Indian activists, to abandon their monikers.
"These team names, whether it's in the NFL or Major League Baseball or other organized sports, do not convey a demeaning meaning," Mr. Tagliabue said during a 1992 Super Bowl week press conference. "They have acquired, in our view, a special and unique meaning affiliated to sports."
In November, Mrs. Schwartz sponsored a D.C. Council resolution similar to the one she introduced to the council of governments. That resolution was adopted 12-1 on an emergency basis.
She said Wednesday she has supported the Redskins since shortly after she arrived in the Washington area in 1966 from Texas but has been bothered by the name for some time.
She said her activism hasn't been prompted by any of the other campaigns in the region against the Redskins name or other Indian-inspired team names.
The Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, an organization dedicated to unifying the eight major faith traditions in the region, adopted its own resolution Nov. 13, calling on the Redskins to change the name.
In Maryland, an advisory panel of citizens appointed by the governor, the Commission on Indian Affairs, began a campaign last year to force the dozen or so school districts statewide that employ Indian-inspired team names or imagery to abandon them.
Their efforts were bolstered by a non-binding resolution of the Maryland State Board of Education adopted in July that urged schools to re-examine the use of such symbols.
Montgomery County's Board of Education voted to strip Poolesville High School of the nickname Indians, but Harford County and Cecil County decided to keep the nicknames in their schools.
Several other school districts across Maryland are in the process of deciding the fates of their Indian-inspired nicknames.

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