RICHMOND, Va. – Responding Thursday to persistent questions about the Redskins’ controversial moniker, team general manager Bruce Allen emphatically said the name would stay.
Allen was in Richmond for the groundbreaking of the team’s new $10 million summer training camp. His comments come as debate about the Redskins’ name has intensified and opponents believe they’re gaining momentum.
Asked if the team would change its name, Allen said, “No.”
“We represent an iconic sports franchise that’s 81 years old, that involves millions of fan worldwide, that has thousands of alumni. It’s ludicrous to think in any way that we’re trying to upset anyone. We’re proud of who we are and we’re proud of what we’re going be and what we’re going to do here in the city of Richmond and hopefully worldwide,” Allen said.
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The new facility will include a sports medicine center and will be available to Richmond city schools as well.
Virginia provided a $4 million grant to bring the Redskins’ summer camp to Richmond, and the deal ensured the team’s headquarters will remain in Ashburn, keeping the jobs and tax revenue the team generates in Virginia.
But the controversy over the team’s mascot and namesake continues. And this week, the team released video on its website defending the name and noting the support of high schools that continue to use a “Redskins” nickname.
Despite the team’s defense of the name, opponents remain hopeful that change will come.
“We’re closer than we’ve ever been,” says Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians.
“I have to tell you that the outpouring of public support is going to carry us far,” she says.
A symposium held last week at the National Museum of the American Indian labeled the team name as a racial slur.
But Pata believes D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s comments, and the omission of the nickname, during his State of the District speech helped expand the conversation beyond traditional advocates.
Gray said last month if the team were to get serious about moving games from Maryland back to Washington, he would like to have the chance to sit down and see if a name change should be made.
“All of a sudden, everyone else started paying attention. And it wasn’t just the Indians bringing up the issue of the mascot,” Pata says.
While opponents of the team name may be growing in numbers, they recognize that strong support persists.
“It is an issue that’s not going to go away,” says Robert Holden, deputy director at NCAI.
“It’s more than just PR, it’s the stigma of what (the name) has done to our people,” he says. “We’ll not give it up.”