Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says it's time for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to follow NBA counterpart Adam Silver's lead and rid his "league of bigotry and racism" by forcing the Washington Redskins to change their nickname.
Reid, who has been a vocal opponent of the nickname, congratulated the NBA on Wednesday for banning Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life. Sterling was caught in an audio recording making racist comments about blacks.
On Tuesday, Silver banned the 80-year-old Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million (the maximum allowed by the NBA's constitution) and pressed other team owners to support his desire to make Sterling sell the Clippers. If three-fourths of the other 29 owners agree to Silver's recommendation, Sterling will be forced to sell the team he has owned since 1981. Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said Wednesday on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" that he expects the vote to be unanimous (29-0) to remove Sterling.
"Commissioner Silver and the NBA leadership have set the standard for how professional sports organization should act in the face of racism," Reid said, according to ABC News. "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 called on Goodell to "follow the NBA's example" and "remove this hateful term from your league's vocabulary."
In March, Reid told The Washington Post that he thinks the Redskins will change the name within three years. The Nevada Democrat, who said his state has 22 tribes, accused Redskins owner Daniel Snyder of hiding behind tradition in retaining his team's name.
"It is untoward of Daniel Snyder to try to hide behind tradition," Reid said. "Tradition? That's what he says in refusing to change the name of the team. Tradition? What tradition? A tradition of racism is all that name leaves in its wake. Mr. Snyder knows that in sports the only tradition that matters is winning, so I urge Daniel Snyder to do what's morally right and remove this degrading term from the league by changing his team's name."
Snyder has insisted he will not change the team's name, calling it a "badge of honor.''
With Snyder unwilling, Reid said it falls on the NFL to step in to right a wrong.
"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," he added. "For far too long, the NFL has been sitting on its hands doing nothing while an entire population of Americans has been denigrated."
On Tuesday, the Oneida Indian Nation, which has led the movement to get the name changed, released a statement also congratulating the NBA for its ban of Sterling, and also took the opportunity to take a dig at the NFL.
"In banning Clippers owner Donald Sterling, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and other NBA team owners have taken a courageous stand against racism in professional sports, acknowledging that professional leagues cannot be a platform to promote bigotry," Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter said in the statement.
"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."
Earlier this month, Snyder said it's time for people to "focus on reality'' concerning Native American matters instead of criticizing the team's nickname.
Challenged by those who consider the team's name offensive, Snyder and his staff recently traveled to Native American reservations and last month established a foundation to assist American Indian tribes. Reid has told the Post that he considers Snyder's foundation a "phony deal."Linebacker London Fletcher, who played for the Redskins from 2007 to 2013, also is "uneasy" about the nickname.
"You know, I spent seven years in Washington and hadn't really thought a whole lot about it until this past season," Fletcher told NBC's "SportsDash." "You heard more about it in the news, more things were coming out about it. So I started to really look at it and started to kind of take hold and get a true understanding of what the word Redskin meant.
"Get a history lesson, in a sense. And I started feeling a little bit uneasy about it. Voiced my concern to general manager Bruce Allen, and suggested that Mr. Snyder, the owner, should go and speak with some of the Native Americans, just to get their thoughts on it, to find out how they truly feel about the name."
Fletcher acknowledged, however, that the decision is Snyder's.
"I wanted Mr. Snyder to go out and talk to them, because he's the one that is ultimately going to make the decision," Fletcher said on NBC Sports Network's "Pro Football Talk." "It's his football team and he's the one who's been adamant that he's not going to change the name, but I think if he goes and has some conversations maybe he might look at it a little different."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.