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Leggett weighs in on the “Redskin” controversy

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Published on: Wednesday, November 27, 2013

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett is refraining from using the term “Redskins” after promising a resident he would ask county officials to no longer use it in news releases.

Earlier this month Leggett received an email from a county resident urging him to call for the Washington Redskins to change their name, according to county spokesman Patrick Lacefield. Leggett chose to respond to the message.

“Personally, I agree with you and will ask that references made by the county in any news releases refer instead to the ‘Washington professional football team,’” Leggett said in his Nov. 7 response. “As for action by the county, I am asking our Office of Human Rights to take a look at the matter and make a recommendation to me on what position the county should take.”

Lacefield said Leggett is not requesting a “massive study” but is hoping he can get a recommendation to present to the council.

James Stowe, director of the county’s Office of Human Rights, said it could be a while before a recommendation is made because the office has not looked at the issue previously. However, he said he hopes a recommendation can be made by the end of this year, or during the first quarter of 2014, at the latest. Stowe said the office will have to consult with the Human Rights Commission before a final recommendation is made.

As for neighboring jurisdictions, the D.C. Council voted unanimously on Nov. 5, to urge the Redskins to change their name.

A spokesman for the team, Tony Wyllie, referred the Sentinel to a letter team owner Dan Snyder sent to fans.

In his letter, Snyder says the team’s name is a “badge of honor” and not a label.

“When I consider the Washington Redskins name, I think of what it stands for,” Snyder said. “I think of the Washington Redskins traditions and pride I want to share with my three children, just as my father shared with me -- and just as you have shared with your family and friends.

Snyder went on to say he respects the opinions of those who disagree with him, and that he will continue to listen and learn from them, but he does not plan to change the team’s name.

“We cannot ignore our 81 year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country,” Snyder said. “After 81 years, the team name 'Redskins' continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.”

For now, official notices from Leggett’s office will no longer refer to the team as the “Redskins,” but Lacefield said the name only pops up in press releases or official notes two or three times a year.

So why should the county involve itself in the Redskins controversy?

“There are a lot of fans of the team in Montgomery County. It is Montgomery County’s football team, as well as Washington, D.C.’s and Prince George’s,” Lacefield said. “From time to time the county, even if our view is advisory, we chime in on issues of public policy and this was something the county executive just felt he wanted to do.”

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