WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The District of Columbia’s non-voting congressional delegate introduced a bill on Thursday to strip the NFL of its federal antitrust protection as long as it allows Washington’s football team to use the name “Redskins,” a moniker some see as racist.
Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton said the National Football League and Washington’s football team “should not be benefiting financially from federal antitrust exemptions while they continue to promote a disparaging moniker that has been found by legal authorities to be a racial slur.”
A federal judge in July upheld a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that the name was “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus ineligible for federal trademark registration.
Norton said in a statement: “The name of the nation’s capital, Washington, should always be associated with pride, not with a moniker that mocks and insults Native Americans.”
Calling the name an “embarrassment to the league and to the country,” Norton said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s team owners needed to “get on the right side of the law and of history and change the name.”
The owner of the Redskins, Daniel Snyder, has said the name shows respect to Native Americans and that he will not change it under any circumstances.
“We disagree with Ms. Norton’s opposition to the Washington Redskins name,” a Redskins spokesman told Reuters via e-mail. “More than 85 percent of Ms. Norton’s constituents disagree as well, as recent polls have shown.”
The NFL did not respond to a request for comment on the bill, which faces an uphill climb in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Congress granted the NFL and the other major pro sports leagues antitrust exemptions in 1961, allowing teams to work together in negotiating contracts.
Last year, Norton tried to force a name change through a bill that would have denied tax-exempt status to any pro sports league that allowed a member to benefit from the name Redskins.
But the NFL in April gave up that tax-exempt status on its own.
Norton can propose legislation in the House but has no vote because she represents the District of Columbia.
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Andrew Hay and Peter Cooney