While they would probably be better off with more support on the offensive line, the Washington Redskins picked up some new recruits in the naming controversy Monday from a bipartisan taxi squad of Virginia lawmakers.
The goal was not to beat Dallas, but to sack another favorite foe of Virginians: the federal government.
Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax City; Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas; and Del. David Ramadan, R-Loudoun, announced formation of the “Redskins Pride Caucus” — a political counterpoint to recent actions by the U.S. Senate and U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board reflecting the position that the longstanding team name is offensive to Native Americans. They held a news conference Monday at the General Assembly Building in Richmond.
With cameras rolling and Redskins lobbyists from McGuireWoods in attendance, lawmakers from across the commonwealth stepped up to the microphone one by one to pronounce their love for the team and recall moments from their childhood linked to past Redskins glory.
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“I’m proud to be a Redskins fan,” said Petersen, who displayed a framed Sports Illustrated cover of a Redskins playoff victory over the Dallas Cowboys as proof.
Ramadan said he was a Redskins fan in 1987 — before he immigrated to Virginia from Beirut. He called the team and its name “a worldwide franchise” whose fans “identify with being warriors, with being a football team that we all enjoy.”
More importantly, Ramadan and others said, the team is a Virginia business that generates millions and needs to be protected to make its business decisions free from government interference. The Redskins play in Maryland but train in Loudoun County and in Richmond.
Last week, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board canceled the team’s trademark protections for the Redskins name and certain logos, deeming them to be derogatory to a “substantial composite” of Native Americans. That sets the stage for a legal battle that could take years to play out.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder opposes a name change. He has lined up his own PR blitz, including the Richmond-based legal firm McGuireWoods and public relations guru Lanny Davis, who aided then-President Bill Clinton during his impeachment.
Fifty members of the U.S. Senate recently signed a letter supporting a name change for the team, which has played in Washington for decades. Virginia’s Mark R. Warner and Timothy M. Kaine, both Democrats, did not sign the letter, but Kaine says he supports a name change.
At the news conference, Miller acknowledged that “it’s almost kind of silly” to be forming a caucus supporting the team, but he said that federal actions “attacking a private company in Virginia” warranted making a statement.
He charged that the controversy is not a grass-roots issue raised by Native Americans, but an example of “political correctness on steroids in overdrive.”
The lawmakers shrugged off comparisons with the controversial name change they enacted earlier this year. Lawmakers approved amending future Virginia textbooks to add the name “East Sea” when referring to the “Sea of Japan” — a name that many Korean-Americans consider offensive.
They also were somewhat reluctant to say whether they thought it was acceptable to refer to Native Americans as “Redskins.”
“I’m not here as any type of sociology or anthropology” expert, Petersen said.
“It’s not a political issue, but it’s been politicized.”