News & Politics

The Redskins’ Name Issue Is Now Campaign Ad Fodder in Virginia’s Senate Race

Election Day can't come quickly enough.

One of the more unpleasant things about Octobers in even-numbered years is the avalanche of campaign advertisements that fills up every television commercial break, and with a week to go, the din is as loud as possible. Now, the name of the Washington NFL club has been dragged into the heap, thanks to Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee for a US Senate seat in Virginia.

Gillespie’s campaign ran an ad on ESPN last night during the first half Washington-Dallas game. In the 30-second spot, Gillespie calls out his opponent, Senator Mark Warner, for not taking a stand on a Senate bill that aims to revoke the NFL’s tax-exempt status if the league does not force Washington’s team to change its name, a dictionary-defined racial slur against Native Americans.

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a bill to force the Redskins to change their name,” a grim narrator says. “Mark Warner refused to answer if he supports the bill or not. Why won’t he fight the anti-Redskins bill? Why won’t he answer the question?”

Gillespie appears, eagerly saying he’ll oppose the bill, which was introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington state Democrat, in September at a flashy press conference, but hasn’t received any other attention until, well, right now. But one of the reasons that Warner hasn’t staked out a firm position on Cantwell’s bill might be that he already made his feelings known in May when he declined to sign a letter from Reid and nearly every Senate Democrat to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the controversial team name. (Tim Kaine, Virginia’s other Democratic senator, didn’t sign it either.)

But the biggest sign this ad might have been a waste of time for Gillespie, who trails Warner by 11 percentage points in Real Clear Politics’ average of the most recent polls, is that team owner Dan Snyder doesn’t need a new friend in the Senate. He’s already got one in Warner, to whom he and his wife, Tanya, both gave the maximum contribution of $5,200 last December, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Perhaps Gillespie can cut his final ads on whether Colt McCoy deserves another start following Washington’s upset win over the Cowboys last night.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

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.