On May 21, 49 members of the United States Senate signed on to a letter urging National Football League (NFL) commissioner Roger Goodell to force the Washington Redskins to change their nickname. The letter attempted to circumvent Redskins majority owner Daniel Snyder, who has repeatedly affirmed he would “never” change the name. According to the Senators, “Redskins” is a racial slur for Native Americans. They argued the NFL should send the message that “racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports.” This, they say, is the message reflected in the NBA’s recent decision to ban Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling over the content of an illegally taped personal discussion with his girlfriend about racial association. All 49 Senators who signed on to the letter belong to the Democratic Party.
Fortunately, the NFL did not budge. Unlike NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s knee-jerk overreaction to the Sterling controversy, Goodell took a principled approach in defense of free speech. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy explained: “The intent of the team’s name has always been to present a strong, positive and respectful image. The team name is not used by the team or the NFL in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently.”
Redskins President Bruce Allen responded likewise. In a May 23 letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Allen explained the 81 year history of the “Redskin” name, the fact that it originated as a statement of solidarity with Native Americans, and referenced a 2004 poll revealing that 90 percent of Native Americans approve of the NFL’s use of the nickname.
With the NFL and Redskins having rejected their outcry, Senate Democrats resumed their assault on the First Amendment on June 3, endorsing a constitutional amendment to undo the precedent of Citizens United and allow Congress to place limits on campaign finance. Thankfully, like the NFL, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas served as foil to the Senate Democrats’ plans, highlighting the latest attack on free speech as part of a larger theme:
For over two centuries, Congress has not dared to mess with the Bill of Rights . . . This amendment, if adopted, would give Congress absolute authority to regulate the political speech of every single American, with no limitations whatsoever . . . when did elected [Senate] Democrats abandon the Bill of Rights? . . . Where are the liberals today? Why is there not a liberal standing here defending the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment?
Perhaps the public should ask these questions of their Senators before they take away that right.