Washington owner Dan Snyder can't build new stadium at RFK site unless team changes its name

Chris Cwik

The pressure is on Washington football team owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s name. While calls to change the team’s name have existed for years, the situation escalated Wednesday, as officials told Snyder he couldn’t build a new stadium on the RFK site unless the team changes its name, according to the Washington Post.

That ultimatum comes courtesy of U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, according to The Post.

Grijalva, whose committee oversees the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service, which owns the land, called the prospect of a Redskins stadium on the site a “non-starter,” both for him and the Democratic caucus, given the objections to what he called a “racist nickname” as well as strong views about how to honor the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy, who championed social justice and inclusion, in any development of the site.

“The time [for the name] has ended,” Grijalva said. “There is no way to justify it. You either step into this century or you don’t. It’s up to the owner of the team to do that.”

Other officials backed Grijalva’s statement, including Congresswoman Elenor Holmes Norton and Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio. Mayor Muriel Bowser has also indicated she’s in favor of the team changing its name.

Snyder is looking to move the team to another location once its lease with FedEx Field expires in 2027. It’s assumed Snyder is looking to build the new stadium at the RFK site. The franchise used to play at RFK Stadium, leaving in 1996 to move to FedEx Field.

In March 2019, a bill was introduced that would sell the land around RFK to Washington, D.C. Residents and officials would then be allowed to determine how that land would be used. Snyder wants to build a new stadium, and has tried to pass legislation making it easier for him to get his wish.

Snyder has faced increased pressure to change the team’s name following George Floyd’s death. On Wednesday, investors worth $620 billion signed letters asking FedEx, PepsiCo and Nike to end their relationships with the franchise. Those investors argue those companies are going against their stated commitments to diversity by supporting a team named the “Redskins,” which some consider a racial slur.

Other teams and sports leagues have removed racist iconography in the wake of protests stemming from Floyd’s death. The Minnesota Twins removed a statue of former team owner Calvin Griffith, who made racist comments. NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its races.

The Washington football team made at least one similar change, removing former team owner George Preston Marshall’s name from the team website and wall of honor. Under Marshall, Washington was the last team in the NFL to integrate. It did so only after Marshall was told the team would not be able to play at RFK Stadium unless it integrated. Marshall is responsible for giving the team its name.

New head coach Ron Rivera was asked about the team’s name Monday. Rivera ducked the question, saying it wasn’t the time to talk about the issue.

Snyder has been vehemently opposed to changing the team’s name in the past. In 2013, Snyder said he would “never change the name of the team.”

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