Politics

Obama Administration Could Block New Washington Redskins Stadium Over Team's Name

| by Alexander Rubinstein

The Obama administration is expected to block Washington, D.C., authorities from building a new stadium for the Washington Redskins National Football League team.

Some city leaders want to demolish the current stadium, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, in an attempt to lure the Washington Redskins back to the District of Columbia. The team played there from 1961 to 1996.

Those who want the team back have encountered a possibly insurmountable hurdle: The Obama administration does not like the team’s name.

The National Park Service, which owns the land beneath the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, is unlikely to accommodate the construction of a new stadium unless the Redskins change their name. That’s what Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, whose department includes the NPS, told D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Jewell said the Obama administration would also not work to accommodate the new venue’s construction.

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“As I believe the Secretary made clear in our discussion, the NPS will not take a position in support of such an extension at this time,” wrote Robert A. Vogel, a regional NPS director, in a letter obtained by The Washington Post. “You are, of course, free to seek such legislation without NPS support,” Vogel added.

Jewell also oversees the agency responsible for federal relations with American Indian tribes. She has argued that the Redskins name is a relic of the past, and President Barack Obama agrees with her.

She told ABC News last year that, “Personally, I think we would never consider naming a team the ‘Blackskins’ or the ‘Brownskins’ or the ‘Whiteskins.’ So, personally, I find it surprising that in this day and age, the name is not different.” Obama has also admitted that he would change the name if it were within his authority.

Jewell told Bowser of her position and that it was unlikely that she would rework the lease terms for the stadium because of the team’s name. Interior Department spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw confirmed what was said in the meeting between Jewell and the governor and added that, with little time left in office, it is unlikely the Obama administration will prioritize the stadium.

Bowser had inquired with the Park Service officials about extending the District’s lease for the property to allow for a new stadium. An extension of the lease would require congressional action.

Many Democratic congressmen want the Redskins’ name changed. The Patent and Trademark office has canceled the team’s trademark because it was offensive to Native Americans.

Daniel Snyder, the team owner of the Redskins, insists the name honors Native Americans and has vowed to never change it.

Sources: The Hill, The Washington Post

Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr Creative Commons