For years District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, has made it clear that she wants the Washington Redskins to change their name, especially if they want to move back to the city. She reiterated that sentiment in a radio interview with The Team 980 on Friday.
“I think it’s past time for the team to deal with what offends so many people,” Bowser said. “And this is a great franchise with a great history that’s beloved in Washington. And it deserves a name that reflects the affection that we’ve built for the team.”
Bowser said that she wants the Redskins, who played at Griffith Stadium from 1937 to 1960 and RFK Stadium from 1961 to 1996, to return to the District, but that the team name is hindering progress toward making a deal for a new stadium.
“It’s an obstacle for us locally but it’s also an obstacle for the federal government who leases the land to us,” Bowser said of the team name.
The mayor’s comment somewhat resembles an ultimatum the federal government gave former Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, which said his team could not play at D.C. Stadium (later renamed R.F.K. Stadium) if the team did not have a black player on its roster. Under Marshall, the Redskins were the last team to integrate.
Marshall ultimately relented after then-secretary of the interior Stewart L. Udall, told him in March of 1961 that the newly-built facility might not be available for him that fall if no black players were added to the team.
The RFK Stadium site is owned by the National Park Service and is leased to The District until 2038. The Redskins’ lease at FedEx Field, where they have played since 1997, runs out in 2027.
A November 2019 Washington Post poll revealed that 59 percent of District residents support the Redskins building a new stadium at the RFK location.
At the Redskins’ 2018 Welcome Home Luncheon, Bowser reignited her desire to have the franchise return to its roots, telling a crowd that included Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to “bring it home.”
“We think all of our professional sports teams should be in our city limits,” Bowser said after the event. “We think it’s important that in a world-class city, we have all of the major things – arts, culture, restaurants, theater and sports.”
Snyder said in 2013 that he would never change the team’s name. Surveys conducted in 2016 by The Post and 2019 by Wolvereye showed a majority of people who self-identified as Native American were not offended by the team’s nickname.
Earlier this month, the team participated in #BlackOutTuesday on Twitter as a way to raise awareness of racial injustice. The team posted an image of a black square along with the aforementioned hashtag.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., replied to the tweet, stating that the Redskins should change their name. Former Redskins quarterback Sage Rosenfels also saw the tweet and told the team to “sit down” regarding that topic.