In a speech on the House floor this week, Democrat Delegate Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) argued that the Redskins name change campaign is not a “popularity contest” nor is it about “sports,” but a “moral issue.” He proceeded to reference the situation to colonial times when “the only sporting involved was the game of hunting and killing Indians like animals for money.”
Faleomavaega, who has emerged as the leading congressional voice for those in the Native American Community that find the Redskins’ name to be “racist, disparaging, and patently offensive,” used the platform to call for action and to directly address Redskins owner Dan Snyder, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Earlier in March, Faleomavaega introduced H.R. 1278–The Non-Disparagement of American Indians in the Trademark Registrations Act of 2013. At the time, the legislation was reported as “a move intended to put pressure on the Washington football club to change its name.”
Co-sponsor D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D) said that “Nobody would let a comparable name to blacks stand,” and added that while she believed a name change was inevitable, “nothing happens without pushing and shoving.” The bill last saw Congressional action on April 15 when it was referred to the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and The Internet.
Despite recent efforts both in the press and Congress, Redskins name change proponents have seen little traction with and support for their campaign “to pressure” action.
“We’ll never change the name,” Redskins owner Dan Snyder said to USA Today in May. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
In July, Rush Limbaugh said “people who don’t like the Redskins names are just a bunch of PC jerks” and “these change advocates are nothing but a bunch of liberals who are, in truth, seeking to empower the federal government with more power over everybody.”
In his Floor speech Tuesday, Faleomavaega offered a response:
This is a moral issue that reaches far back to the time when Native Americans were not only considered outcasts, but deemed ‘enemies, rebels, and traitors’ by the colonial government.”
Faleomavaega concluded his speech with the following:
To Mr. Limbaugh, to Mr. Snyder, to Mr. Goodell, and all NFL club owners, I ask: Haven’t American Indians suffered enough? Have they not paid the price placed on their heads, their scalps, their skins?
G. Anne Richardson, chief of the Rappahannock Tribe in Virginia, would argue that Faleomavaega and others should refocus their time and attention to issues more consequential.
“There are so many more issues that are important for the tribe than to waste time on what a team is called,” Richardson recently told The Richmond Times Dispatch and said, “We’re more worried about our kids being educated, our people housed, elder care and the survival of our culture.”
Richardson also said that “Congress is not willing to do what most Americans need right now, so I don’t feel so bad.”
An Associated Press-GfK poll in May found that “nearly four in five” Americans support keeping the Redskins name.