News & Politics

After Donald Sterling, Dan Snyder Is Feeling the Heat

The ousting of an NBA owner who made racist statements opens another opportunity for Redskins critics.

Photograph by Flickr user Kevin Coles.

With NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banishing Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling after audio of Sterling denigrating African-Americans surfaced, some parties are using the ugly episode to turn the spotlight on racism in sports back toward Washington’s local football team.

Hours after Silver came down on Sterling, the Oneida Indian Nation, which has spent the better part of the past year hammering the Redskins about their name—which is defined by most dictionaries as a racial slur—put out a statement urging the NFL to take action against Washington owner Dan Snyder as long as he defends his team’s name.

“In taking such appropriate disciplinary action, the NBA has shown leagues like the NFL that they have a moral responsibility to take disciplinary action against people like Dan Snyder, who also continues to proudly promote bigotry with the use of a dictionary-defined racial slur as his team’s name,” Oneida leader Ray Halbritter said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid piled on during a floor appearance on Wednesday, saying that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should “follow the NBA’s example” and get tough with Snyder.

“How long will the NFL continue to do nothing, zero, as one of its teams bears the name that inflicts so much pain for Native Americans?” Reid asked. “Since Snyder fails to show any leadership, the National Football League should take an assist from the NBA and pick up the slack. It would be a slam dunk.”

Mixed sports metaphors aside, Sterling’s taped comments are more egregious than Snyder’s consistent, if not entirely convincing, arguments that the team’s name is an honorific. An NFL spokesman did not respond to questions about whether Silver’s actions will motivate Goodell to change his opinion. Goodell, who grew up a Washington fan, has been largely supportive of Snyder during the controversy over the team’s name.

And as recently as last week, Snyder continued to be as defiant (or oblivious) as ever.

“We understand the issues out there, and we’re not an issue,” he told the Associated Press. “The real issues are real-life issues, real-life needs, and I think it’s time that people focus on reality.”

But those remarks came a few days before when brazen racism jolted the reality of professional sports.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.