What's with all this talk about luring Washington's pro football team back to the city?
Problem one: Washington doesn't have an NFL team. The closest one would be the Redskins. Last time I checked they played in Landover, Md., a suburb east of Washington in Prince George's County. They are the Landover Redskins. Washington lost its team when the Redskins moved out of RFK Stadium in 1997.
Good riddance. The team has stunk ever since, running up mediocre records, rarely making the playoffs, dashing the hopes of terminally hopeful fans year after year.
So why are some D.C. politicians dreaming and scheming to bring the team back within the District line? Is it vanity, or economic benefits or ego? Hard to tell.
Word is that Mayor Vince Gray is in talks with team owner Dan Snyder about developing a training facility in vacant land on the west bank of the Anacostia River. Snyder owns a training facility in Ashburn, Va., that is worn out and not worthy of a high school. Snyder is a decent businessman and a dreadful team owner. If D.C. offers up the land for cheap, or gives it away or builds the stadium, Snyder might bite.
But does D.C. want or need the owner and his underachieving squad? Attempting to deal with Snyder is a fool's errand. I would even agree with Marion Barry, who said on WAMU's "Politics Hour" that talk of bringing the team to D.C. is "fantasy land," in part because Snyder is raking in the dough at his current stadium in Landover and his fields in Ashburn.
We can all agree the team certainly needs a change. It hasn't had a decent quarterback in a decade. Coaches come and go every few years. Fans are fleeing. It has looked barely professional at times.
Maybe Snyder should begin his makeover by discarding the Redskins name, the offensive moniker he inherited from previous owners dating back to when the team played in Boston in the 1930s. In fact, if he wants to bring any part of the franchise back to the real Washington, he has to scrap the name, according to the city council.
In 2001, the city council passed an "emergency declaration resolution" supporting a name change because the name Redskins "is offensive and hurtful to many Native Americans" and "to all people who reject racial stereotypes and bigotry as socially and morally unacceptable."
That puts the council on record against the Redskins name. The legislators join American Indians who have been suing the franchise in court and WRC-TV anchor Jim Vance, one of the most respected figures in town, who recently said on air: "Folks, 'Redskins' is not a term of endearment, any more than the N word or any other racial or ethnic slur. From its inception and inclusion in our language, it was meant to be an insult."
If the mayor or city council are serious about bringing the team back to D.C., they should demand a new name. Anything less would be hypocritical and insulting.
Harry Jaffe's column appears on Tuesday and Friday. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.