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Sad: Washington Redskins name becomes top 2016 presidential topic

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NFL,Redskins,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Barack Obama,Marco Rubio,Paul Ryan,Hillary Clinton,Harry Reid,2016 Elections,Rand Paul,Ted Cruz,Martin OMalley

The name of Washington’s storied NFL team, "Redskins," is fast emerging as one of the top issues on Capitol Hill and in the 2016 presidential election, a red line between hands-off Republicans and nanny state Democrats.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, moving quickly from a “maybe” candidate to a declared one, is the latest to jump into the fight over the name, joining other top Democrats in scowling at the Redskins and their Native American logo.

“We hope that in every generation, we become more understanding of one another, more inclusive as a people, and more respectful of the dignity of every individual and every culture, so I think it probably is time for the Redskins to change their mind,” O'Malley said Monday on Fusion TV.

He joins Hillary Clinton who recently said, "I think it's insensitive and I think there's no reason for it to continue as the name of a team in our nation's capital.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama have also barked at team owner Daniel Snyder to change the name, believing it’s racist.

Most Republicans are on the other side.

Sen. Rand Paul, for example, has also addressed the name. "I'm not much for the government getting involved in the NFL," the Kentucky Republican said on "Meet the Press" in June. "I don't really have a personal, private or public, opinion on what the Redskins name should be."

Rep. Paul Ryan, also considering a 2016 presidential bid, said last week, “I think that should be up to them. I think we should stay out of it.” He also told John Harwood on CNBC: “I'm a Green Bay Packers fan. They're not even in our conference. So I just haven't given it really much thought. I think we should focus on the problems facing this country that we have direct control over and let people in Washington and the team owners make that decision.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was asked about the name, but didn’t take the bait.

And Sen. Ted Cruz joked that if people find the name offensive, “There's an easy way to fix that. You can just drop the word ‘Washington.’”

Snyder has recently stepped up his defense of the name, this week suggesting that foes are simply acting in knee-jerk manner without having any knowledge of how Native Americans view the name.

Talking with former Redskins star Chris Cooley on ESPN radio, he talked of touring reservations and finding respect for the team and the name. From a Washington Post transcript of that talk:

SNYDER: What I learned, what I listened and learned, is really that they love this team. They actually have a tremendous amount of fans on reservations, not only for our team, but many teams that have Native American Imagery — the Atlanta Braves, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Blackhawks. And they really are proud of these teams, and I think that I learned more of the truth.

And what I did see that got me and touched me, and really moved me, and I think you know because you have now visited a lot of reservations as well, is the plight of Native Americans. The things that people don’t talk about. You know, it’s sort of fun to talk about the name of our football team, because it gets some attention for some of the people that write it, that need clicks, or what have you. But reality is, no one ever talks about what’s going on on reservations, the fact that they have such high unemployment rates, health care issues, education issues, environmental issues, lack of water, lack of electricity.

No one wants to talk about that stuff, because it’s not cocktail, chit-chat-talk, it’s a real-life need, real-life issues. And I think they don’t want to focus on that, and I dedicated an effort to do that. And I said after what I saw, and listened, and learned, it moved me. It moved me, it moved my wife, it moved my family, it moved everyone who went with us — Bob Rothman, Dwight Schar, some of my partners went on many of the journeys. And we would go back the airport afterwards, saying, “Gosh, we gotta do something, we gotta help.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.