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Butt Out and Do Your Jobs

The New York Times reported earlier this week that two members of Congress–Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell and Republican Representative Tom Cole–planned to “send a strongly worded letter” to the commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, urging him to support changing the name of the Washington Redskins because it offends Native Americans and others.

Senator Cantwell, Democrat of Washington State and chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee, said in an interview that lawmakers would “definitely” examine the NFL’s tax-exempt status and other ways to pressure the league.

“You’re getting a tax break for educational purposes, but you’re still embracing a name that people see as a slur and encouraging it,” Ms. Cantwell said. The NFL can “no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,” Cantwell and Cole said.

Wherever you stand on the name of the Washington franchise, to have Members of Congress weigh in on this is silly and inappropriate; and to have them threaten to use the law to punish the N.F.L. unless it bows to their wishes is troubling. Clearly they have too much time on their hands. 

How about this modest proposal: Before members of Congress weigh in on issues they have no business in, they actually perform the tasks that are properly theirs? Here’s another alternative: Congress cease and desist from telling the NFL what to do about the names of their teams until its public approval rating exceeds, say, 25 percent (right now it’s at 13 percent).

There are a lot of reasons to be frustrated, discouraged, and/or disgusted by members of Congress these days. Believing that they have an official role to play when it comes to the team name of an N.F.L. franchise (one that has been affixed to the Washington franchise since the 1930s) is yet one more.

Senator Cantwell and Representative Cole have nothing to teach the rest of us on this matter. They should butt out and do their jobs. 


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