A lobbyist who claims he runs Washington’s top-rated political advisory firm says he is working on a bill that would prohibit gay athletes from playing in the NFL, and says he is building a “tidal wave” of congressional support.
“I don’t think I’ve felt more passionately about anything in my life,” says Jack Burkman, who earlier Monday blasted out what appeared to be a flamboyantly optimistic press release. But Burkman says he is deadly serious about using the law to segregate the nation’s most popular professional sport based on sexual orientation.
Burkman started working on his bill after Michael Sam, a top-rated defensive lineman from the University of Missouri, came out publicly earlier this month and is now on track to become the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team. Burkman says he is afraid of the prospect of Sam sharing a locker room with professional football players.
“Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man,” Burkman says in his press release. “That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?”
Sam has said in interviews that he never faced any harrassment from his Missouri teammates and has received scores of supportive reactions from the NFL, most of its 32 teams, and many active players. But the Arlington-based Burkman, who, judging from his website splits his time between lobbying Congress and fomenting gay panic, appears oblivious.
Burkman also believes that he is representing a majority he says is silenced by political correctness. “I think most people agree with this, but the nation has become mentally paralyzed because the establishment media has turned this into an issue,” he says. “It’s almost like what the Nazis did in the 1930s.”
Burkman doesn’t stop at the Nazis. If the NFL is going to have openly gay players, he continued, teams should be forced to build separate facilities. “You have people who are sexually attracted to each other. How can we have them naked together? Should the football players and the cheerleaders have the same locker room? I’m focused on the issue of sexual attraction.”
“I think there should be forced segregation because it’s the same thing as having a woman in the locker room,” he says. “I’m trying to force the NFL to have separate facilities or ban gays from playing.”
As for his supposed “tidal wave” of support for implementing Jim Crow-style policies on professional football, Burkman says it will give congressional Republicans cover against right-wing primary challengers. “We have six people who are committed in the House,” he says, though he refuses to name names. “My projection is within three weeks I will have 36 members in the House and six in the Senate.”
Burkman says some of his political clients could use gay footballers as a wedge issue in their home states, but, he adds, “I have no clients who are relevant to this. I speak to this philosophically.”
Of course, as a privately run organization composed of 32 independent businesses, the NFL would be a difficult thing for the federal government to regulate. Burkman thinks he’d prevail in court in the face of a constitutional challenge because the NFL has not regulated itself.
“My feeling is that if they don’t want to take a proper step, we have to take a proper step for them,” Burkman says.
Spokespeople for the NFL did not respond to a request for a reaction to Burkman’s announcement, and we can’t really fault them.
Redskins tight end Fred Davis was arrested Thursday afternoon for drunk driving in Tysons Corner, Fairfax County Police say. Davis, a six-year NFL veteran, was arrested about 3:45 PM at the intersection of Gallows Road and Leesburg Pike, and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
It’s been a rough week for Davis, who on Wednesday was suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, which he said was because he unwittingly ingested a nutritional supplement containing banned substances, according to a statement from the players’ union. Davis also ran afoul of the league’s drug policy in 2011, when he was suspended for four games after failing a drug test for marijuana.
Davis, who was released after sobering up in police custody, is also heading into free agency this off-season. He’ll need to apply for reinstatement into the NFL before signing a new contract.
Davis's court date has not been set. No word on if he'll be representing himself again when he appears before a judge.
A barista at a District coffee shop will come home from Sochi, Russia soon with a bronze medal around her neck, though she did not win it for Team USA. Jessica Lutz, who works at The Coffee Bar near Logan Circle, plays for the Swiss women’s ice hockey team, and scored a critical goal today in Switzerland’s 4-3 victory over Sweden in the bronze-medal game. (The United States and Canada play for the gold this afternoon.)
Sweden led 2-0 after two periods, but Switzerland climbed back, with Lutz scoring the go-ahead goal nearly 14 minutes into the final period. It was her second goal of the Sochi games. The teams both added one more goal after the Swedes pulled their goalie.
Lutz, 24, grew up in Rockville, but gets her Swiss citizenship through her father, Ernst, who immigrated to the Washington area about 30 years ago. She had to spend a few years living in the landlocked European nation for a few years to become eligible to play for its national team, but had a much better shot of making that squad than the US team, which is consistently one of the top two in the world.
But even nabbing third place is still a big deal for Switzerland, which hadn’t won a medal in men’s or women’s ice hockey since 1948. Her employer back in DC is also pretty excited.
OMG JESSICA GOT THE BRONZE MEDAL!! Go Jess and Swiss Women's ice hockey!!! http://t.co/nWoC4ZiAnn— The Coffee Bar (@thecoffeebardc) February 20, 2014
Senator Maria Cantwell and Representative Tom Cole are the latest high-profile figures to add themselves to the list of people who say Washington’s NFL team should be called something other than a word generally considered to be a racial slur. But Cantwell and Cole are adding a new tactic to their protest by targeting the NFL’s tax-exempt status as long as the league defends the name “Redskins.”
“The National Football league is on the wrong side of history,” Cantwell, a Washington state Democrat, and Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, write in their letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “It is not appropriate for this multibillion dollar 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization to perpetuate and profit from the continued degradation of tribes and Indian people.”
While individual football teams are taxed as business entities, the NFL itself, which is classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a “business league,” is exempt.
Cantwell and Cole also respond to Goodell’s remarks at a press conference last month ahead of the Super Bowl, in which the commissioner defended the Washington team by citing a 2004 poll of Native Americans in which only 9 percent said they found the name offensive. “This is the name of a football team, a football team that has had that name for 80 years,” Goodell said. “That has presented the name in a way that is honorable to Native Americans.”
In their letter, Cantwell and Cole are unconvinced by Goodell’s logic. “Saying the Washington football team ‘honored Native Americans’ perpetuates a charade that dishonors Native people and their governments and erodes the reputation of the National Football League,” they write. “The National Football League can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur.”
Tony Wyllie, the team’s spokesman, tells Washingtonian in an e-mail that Cole and Cantwell should buzz off.
“With all the important issues Congress has to deal with such as a war in Afghanistan to deficits to health care, don’t they have more important issues to worry about than a football team’s name?” Wyllie writes. “And given the fact that the name of Oklahoma means “Red People” in Choctaw, this request is a little ironic.”
However, the team’s name might actually be more in Cantwell’s and Cole’s purviews than Wyllie is willing to grant. Cantwell chairs the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, while Cole is a member of the Chikasaw Nation.
In an effort to counter the ongoing criticism—or maybe just because it’s mid-February and a football team needs something to do—the Washington team is also pushing out a press release full of approving quotes from people identifying themselves as Native Americans. The press release, titled “Community Voices,” includes statements from Virginia and Maryland residents who agree with the team’s assessment that its name is an honorific. The team also claims that owner Dan Snyder has received more than 7,000 letters and e-mails since the beginning of the 2013 season.
“Community Voices” feels like a rehash of something the team did last February, when it responded to a Smithsonian symposium about Native American imagery in sports by trotting out profiles of high schools that use its name. But it’s not too surprising to see the franchise employ such an uncreative defense. After all, the team had the second-most ineffective defense during the 2013 season. At least the on- and off-field operations are consistent.
The NFL season is drawing to a close on Sunday, but the Oneida Indian Nation, which has waged a season-long campaign against the name of Washington’s football team, is also planning for a robust off-season.
The Oneidas took another shot at the Redskins today following NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s season-ending press conference, during which Goodell was asked by a reporter if he would call a Native American person a “Redskin” to his or her face.
“This is the name of a football team, a football team that has had that name for 80 years,” Goodell said. “That has presented the name in a way that is honorable to Native Americans.”
The Oneidas were quick to disagree with Goodell. “It is deeply troubling that with the Super Bowl happening on lands that were once home to Native Americans”—New Jersey’s Meadowlands—“NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would use the event as a platform to insist that the dictionary-defined R-word racial slur against Native Americans is somehow a sign of honor,” Oneida executive Ray Halbritter said in a press release. “Worse, he cites the heritage of the team’s name without mentioning that the name was given to the team by one of America’s most famous segregationists, George Preston Marshall.”
The Oneidas, along with the the National Congress of American Indians, also released a two-minute YouTube clip highlighing Native American history. “Native Americans call themselves many things. The one thing they don’t,” a narrator says before the video cuts to a burgundy-and-gold helmet.
The video is as slick as any Super Bowl commercial, but with advertising rates going for $4 million for 30 seconds, Oneida spokesman Joel Barkin admits the big game was a bit out of reach. But after protesting against Washington’s NFL franchise all year, Barkin says the Oneidas’ campaign isn’t finished. “It doesn’t end with the Super Bowl,” he says.
And the Oneidas aren’t the only ones decrying the team’s name today. DC Council member Marion Barry let loose a string of tweets on the subject.
It's Super Bowl time. 4 Washington,we should reflect not on the loss of games,but our loss of honor. Dan, YOU CAN redeem it.Do what's right— Marion S. Barry, Jr. (@marionbarryjr) January 31, 2014
Dan, just as I hate the N word, & you hate the K word, they do NOT want 2 be slurred either. U can afford 2 do this. It will be your legacy.— Marion S. Barry, Jr. (@marionbarryjr) January 31, 2014
Why do these Whiteskins on twitter get so angry when someone challenges them on their cont. use of Redskins slur?Doesn't sound nice does it?— Marion S. Barry, Jr. (@marionbarryjr) January 31, 2014
C'mon Dan. Let's elevate this conversation. Do you want to be remembered as stubborn or loved for standing up against a racist past?— Marion S. Barry, Jr. (@marionbarryjr) January 31, 2014
Dan Snyder has said he will "never" change the name.
Watch the National Congress of American Indian’s video, “Proud to Be”:
Just how far is Dan Snyder willing to go in his defense of his NFL franchise’s name? According to emails obtained by Center for American Progress’s website ThinkProgress, the Redskins’ owner has assembled a rogues gallery of Washington spin-doctors to push back against the swelling number of critics who call out the team’s name as a derogatory term for Native Americans.
ThinkProgress’s long story, appropriately titled “The Epic Battle To Save The Most Offensive Team Name In Professional Sports,” includes correspondence from team officials to characters like wedge-issue wordsmith Frank Luntz, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, and former Virginia Senator and Governor George Allen. The front office in Ashburn emailed them for advice on how to handle reporters’ questions about the ongoing controversy surrounding its name.
Luntz, a master of GOP talking points (see: “death tax”), was first hired by the team last spring, according to team emails.
Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s spokesman during the run-up to the Iraq War, is best remembered, perhaps, for accusing late-night comedians of sympathizing with terrorists.
Allen, son of one-time Washington coach George Allen and brother of general manager Bruce Allen, now runs a political consulting firm in Alexandria. It’s a bit surprising to see Allen offering message strategy considering his 2006 Senate re-election bid came apart thanks to his misspeaking during at a campaign stop, calling an opponent’s operative “macaca.” Confounding at the time, it was widely perceived as a racial slur.
Those three join Lanny Davis, a former Clinton White House lawyer whose client list has included dictators of oil-rich nations in West Africa. “We wonder why the protests are just about our 80-year-old Washington Redskins—and not all the other teams,” Davis told Washingtonian in October.
They seem like a fun bunch.
The District government’s proposal to build a new soccer stadium for DC United is deeply unpopular with city residents, with six in ten opposing a plan in which the District would put up $150 million for the project, according to a new Washington Post poll.
But Washingtonians can be fickle about their stadiums. The Post’s poll found that the city-financed construction of Nationals Park is now seen by a wide majority as having been worth the investment. Seventy-one percent said the $650 million taxpayers put up to build the baseball stadium has been a net positive for the city; at the time construction was announced, residents were split nearly evenly on public financing.
“The big picture is that it’s consistent that DC residents don’t think putting a lot of taxpayer money into sports stadiums is a good idea,” says Ed Lazere, the executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, which has been skeptical of the plan to build a 20,000-seat soccer venue. “For us, it’s encouraging to know that residents want to make sure that the city is getting a good deal when we work to bring a new soccer stadium to the city.”
Since the stadium project was introduced last July—the high point of the worst season of United’s 18-season history—the city has lagged in completing deals to acquire four parcels on Southwest DC’s Buzzard Point being eyed for the stadium. The nine-acre tract is currently split by the development firm Akridge, Pepco, the investor Mark Ein, and a salvage yard. While Akridge and the city have been engaged in talks to swap the company’s plot for the Frank D. Reeves municipal building at 14th and U streets, Northwest, progress with Ein and the scrap yard have been going much more slowly.
The terms of the agreement the District and United signed last year also stipulated that the land swaps would be arranged by the first of this year, with legislation going before the DC Council for its approval. “Everyone acknowledged it was a ridiculously unrealistic schedule to begin with,” Lazere says.
The stadium plan is also becoming a factor in the mayoral race. Several of Mayor Vince Gray’s opponents, including Council member Muriel Bowser and Busboys and Poets restaurateur Andy Shallal, have come out against the plan. Council member Tommy Wells, whose ward includes Buzzard Point, is generally supportive of building the stadium, although he has said any land swap should include the construction of affordable housing units.
With the upcoming political schedule, Lazere doubts much progress will be made on the stadium in the immediate future.
“Given that we’re now just a couple months from a primary you wonder if the mayor will wait anyway,” he says. “It’s also the start of budget season.”
The brewing controversy over the name of Washington’s pro football team is now a matter before the United Nations. Leaders from the Oneida Indian Nation, a tribe that has waged a season-long campaign against the team’s name, are meeting today with Ivan Šimonovic, the assistant secretary-general for human rights, at the UN’s headquarters in New York.
The UN has no jursidiction over the NFL, of course, but its Human Rights Council has gotten involved in trying to fix racism in sports, including FIFA and other soccer organizations. “This particular case could be of interest to a number of UN human rights mechanisms,” a spokesperson for the Human Rights Council told USA Today.
Since last September, the Oneidas have sponsored advertisements calling on the Redskins to drop their name, which is defined by most dictionaries as derogatory, staged rallies outside NFL games, and held meetings with high-ranking NFL executives, though not Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The name has also been panned by a wide of critics from President Obama, who has said he would think about changing the name if he owned the team, to Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who said the team “probably should” get a less-offensive nickname. (Hall, who negotiating a new contract, later walked back that statement.)
“This issue is not going away until the offensive name is retired,” Ray Halbritter, an Oneida representative who is meeting with the UN, said in a press release. But even if the UN agrees that Washington’s NFL club should change its name, the decision to do so still rests with Dan Snyder, who has not been swayed so far.
During their visit to the White House last week to celebrate their latest NBA title, the stars of the Miami Heat filmed a video with Michelle Obama to promote her Let's Move youth fitness initiative. The video, featuring LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, promotes refreshing oneself with healthy snacks and lots of water.
At the end of the video, though, as Spoelstra is chatting with Wade and Allen, James holds up a basketball hoop in the background for Obama to pull off a dunk. No, it's not regulation, but it's still the first recorded slam dunk by a sitting First Lady. And now you can watch it over and over again in one convenient GIF.
Here's the full video, if you want to watch Spoelstra awkwardly interview his own players.
Cornerback DeAngelo Hall appears to have become the first active member of Washington’s NFL team to openly support changing the team’s name. Hall, appearing on Fox Sports this morning, says “they probably should,” when asked by host Mike Hill if the team should get a new moniker.
“They won’t for a while at least,” Hall adds at the end of the interview.
Hall’s segment on the show, Keepin’ It Real With Mike Hill, was full of candid takes from the ten-year NFL veteran. Hall also questioned the decision to fire head coach Mike Shanahan after a 3-13 season. Hill asks Hall if he thought Shanahan’s firing was fair.
“In a result-based business, yes. You gotta win games,” Hall says, but quickly doubles back on that response, adding “Was it fair? Probably not.”
Hall, who finished his fifth season in Washington with four interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns, also expresses doubts that he’ll be suiting up in burgundy and gold in 2014, but mostly because he’s looking for a new contract, and doesn’t want to take another pay cut as he did before last season.
Would Hall stay in Washington for $1 million? “Absolutely not,” he says. And being honest about a name his current team vigorously defends might throw another wrench into contract negotiations.
Watch video of Hall’s inteview below: