Loudoun County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) have sent a letter to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder encouraging him to change the team’s name.
“Because you have been such an integral part of Loudoun, you are aware we are a welcoming community with residents from diverse backgrounds,” the letter reads. “We are proud that people of all races, ethnicities, differing abilities, religious beliefs and socio-economic backgrounds call Loudoun home. With that in mind, we were pleased to hear that you are reviewing the name of your football team and are in support of changing the team name.”
After long saying he would “never” change the Redskins name, Snyder issued a statement last week that the team is considering a name change. The organization has faced criticism about the name for years. The word “redskin” is slang for a Native American and is now usually considered pejorative or offensive.
The push for a name change has strengthened this week with team marketing partners joining the chorus of critics, and national retailers have dropped the team’s merchandise from their inventory.
Although they are named for Washington, DC and play at FedExField in Prince Georges County, MD, the Redskins are a Loudoun business, headquartered in Ashburn atInova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park. They also have training facilities there.
Until recently, the Loudoun County had a marketing agreement with the Redskins, and in 2012 signed an incentive package to keep the team’s headquarters in Loudoun through 2020. The team first came to Loudoun in 1992.
Although only Randall and Saines signed the letter, they garnered support on Tuesday from the 6-3 Democratic majority on the Board of Supervisors for it.
“I think that the Board of Supervisors has a responsibility to speak out when we believe things are happening that are incorrect,” Ranall said. “I also think that the Washington team is—if you’ve ever gone to their park or met their players or know what they do in our schools, they do great, great work in our community. They are very involved in our community, you see them around and every day, they’ve given to the schools, they give to nonprofits, they’re really, really involved. It is actually a disservice to the members of the team for them to have this name.”
Saines encouraged the team to follow the example of Florida State University, which has maintained a partnership with the Seminole tribe from which it takes its mascot’s name. The tribe has expressed formal support for the use of their name for the mascot.
Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) said, “I cringe every time I see the cultural appropriation imagery.”
“As America continues its reckoning on race, steps such as this will show that change is possible, and will be demanded, actually,” Briskman said.
But some supervisors said the county board should not involve itself in the issue.
“This is a private matter, this is an entity that has already declared that they’re going to be looking into it themselves,” said Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin). “It’s something that I think is largely political, and I don’t ‘think it helps the citizens of Loudoun.”
“Whether it’s offensive to me or not, I don’t think that the Board of Supervisors as a whole should be involving itself in telling private business what their name should be,” said Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge).
“I typically have two tests with these sorts of things: is this in our purview, and is it going to make any difference,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “And my conclusion on this one is no and no.”
He also said, “I have a concern when government begins to tell private organizations what they should and shouldn’t do when there is no stake, and there is no partnership, and there is not an agreement in place.”