April 30, 2014 / 8:49 PM / 5 years ago

Top U.S. senator seeks Washington 'Redskins' name change

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called on the NFL on Wednesday to follow the NBA’s lead and crack down on racism by forcing the Washington Redskins to change a name considered racially offensive by many.

U.S.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pauses before speaking to members of the media ahead of the Senate vote on renewing unemployment benefits for millions of Americans, on Capitol Hill in Washington February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

A day after the National Basketball Association imposed a lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for bigoted remarks, Reid called on the NFL to make Redskins owner Daniel Snyder relent to decades of criticism and come up with a new team moniker.

“I with almost all of America applaud the NBA’s work to swiftly stamp out bigotry in its ranks,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat who has 22 tribal organizations in his state.

“I wonder today,” Reid added, standing in the Senate, if “the NFL, that money-making machine,” took notice of the NBA’s actions.

“How long will the NFL continue to do nothing, zero, as one of its teams bears a name that inflicts so much pain on Native Americans,” Reid said.

The word “redskins” is often defined as a racial slur.

But since 1937, it has been the name of Washington’s American football team, which has a history of bigotry, dating back to being one of the last teams in the 1960s to sign a black player.

Over the years, there have been repeated calls for the team to change its name. But Snyder has refused, saying he sees the name as a salute to Native Americans, not a slur against them.

Besides, Snyder has said, it’s part of Washington’s tradition.

“It is untoward of Daniel Snyder to try to hide behind tradition,” Reid said. “A tradition of racism is all that name leaves in its wake.”

Reid said it is time for National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell “to act” and “remove this hateful term from your league’s vocabulary and rid the league of racism and bigotry.”

“Your fans will support it,” Reid said.

Reporting By Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Frank Pingue

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