(CNN) – The National Football League should take note of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s stance on race and force the Washington Redskins to change their name, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Wednesday.
The Nevada Democrat applauded Silver’s decisive action on Tuesday in meting out a lifetime ban to Donald Sterling after the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers was recorded making racist comments. Silver also urged other league owners to support his bid to force Sterling to sell the franchise.
Reid of Nevada saw an opening on the issue to press the case against the Redskins and their owner Daniel Snyder.
In remarks on the floor, Reid said his state includes a number of Indian tribes, and he called on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to force Snyder to “remove this degrading term from the league.”
“Since Snyder fails to show any leadership, the National Football League should take an assist from the NBA and pick up the slack,” he said. “For far too long, the NFL has been sitting on its hands doing nothing while an entire population of Americans has been denigrated.”
“Follow the NBA’s example and rid the league of bigotry and racism. Your fans will support it.”
The D.C. football team’s name has long been the source of controversy, angering many for its connection to a time of intense discrimination against Native Americans.
Snyder opposes a name change, vowing to keep it against both public and congressional pushback.
Snyder contends the name, which the team’s had for 80 years, is part of a tradition important to fans.
Reid said Snyder’s hiding behind the Redskins’ supposed legacy, but “a tradition of racism is all the name leaves in its wake.”
In response to ongoing backlash over the team’s name, Snyder announced last month a nonprofit, the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, to benefit Native Americans.
Goodell has praised Snyder’s efforts and pointed to fan support in keeping the name, but has also soften his tone saying in October that the NFL should “make sure we’re listening to our fans” on the matter.
Even President Barack Obama said if he owned the team and he knew the name was “offending a sizable group of people,” then he would “think about changing it.”
Still, the pushback isn’t easing up on Capitol Hill.
A “Change the Mascot” campaign launched last year, airing radio ads in the D.C.-area.
Reid, the top Senate Democrat, and a number of lawmakers have continued pushing for the team to change its name.
Two members of Congress, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington state and chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee, and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, who is a member of the Chickasaw Nation, wrote a letter in February to Goodell calling the Redskins’ name “an insult to Native Americans.”
The Oneida Indian Nation issued a statement Tuesday praising Silver’s move and said the NFL should follow suit.
“In banning Clippers owner Donald Sterling, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and other NBA team owners have taken a courageous stand against racism in professional sports, acknowledging that professional leagues cannot be a platform to promote bigotry,” said Ray Halbritter, a representative for Oneida Indian Nation.
“In taking such appropriate disciplinary action, the NBA has shown leagues like the NFL that they have a moral responsibility to take disciplinary action against people like Dan Snyder, who also continues to proudly promote bigotry with the use of a dictionary-defined racial slur as his team’s name.”
By Dana Davidsen