The Washington Redskins football team, which has been fighting controversy for years over its nickname, now may be blocked by the Obama administration from building a new stadium in Washington, D.C., unless the team changes its name.
The Redskins have proposed constructing a new NFL stadium on land near their former home at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, where the soccer team D.C. United now plays. The Redskins currently play their home games at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
However, the National Park Service, which is overseen by the Department of the Interior, owns the land near RFK stadium, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has said the department will not accommodate construction of a new stadium unless the Redskins change their name.
Though the land is owned by the National Park Service, it is currently leased to the city of Washington, D.C., for another 22 years.
The Redskins have been in talks with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration about moving the team back to Washington and building a new stadium, but the city would need an extension from the National Park Service to build a new stadium there.
According to The Washington Post, Secretary Jewell told Bowser that use of the Redskins name was a non-starter for her department and the National Park Service would not grant the city a new lease for the proposed site.
As Interior Secretary, Jewell alsooversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and has been emphatic about the disparaging nature of the term Redskins. “Personally, I think we would never consider naming a team the ‘Blackskins’ or the ‘Brownskins’ or the ‘Whiteskins,'” Jewell told ABC News last year. “So, personally, I find it surprising that in this day and age, the name is not different.”
Jewell reiterated that position during a meeting this spring with Bowser, according to the Post, citing Interior Department spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw. “Secretary Jewell has been clear that she considers the Washington football team’s name a relic of the past and believes it should be changed,” she said.
President Barack Obama has echoed that sentiment and said he would change the name if he could.
Altering the lease would require an act of Congress, and the city could seek Congressional support for a change in the lease without the Park Service’s blessing, said the Post, adding that Kershaw said the department has not received a specific proposal to extend or modify the lease and that any such proposal would be evaluated on its merits.