Washington: A veteran US lawmaker Friday called for a congressional hearing on the Washington Redskins name, arguing such action could serve as a "catalyst" to rid American football of a term regarded as overtly racist by many.
Democrat Henry Waxman urged the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold a public forum to challenge the team`s owner, Daniel Snyder, and the NFL to defend their rationale for keeping the decades-old name.
Waxman made the request after the National Basketball Association took lightning-quick action last month to ban the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers for making racist remarks in private about African-Americans.
"In the case of the Washington football team, the offensive conduct is public, not private," the ranking Democrat on the commerce panel said in his letter to chairman Fred Upton.
"But it is being condoned and defended by the National Football League."
Waxman said the NBA crisis raised public awareness of racism in sports, and now was the time to press ahead with addressing the insensitivity of the "derogatory term `Redskins`."
"Fifty years ago, the Washington football team was the last segregated franchise in the NFL. It took federal pressure by the federal government... to integrate the team," Waxman said.
"A congressional hearing could be a similar catalyst for action today."
Waxman is not the only veteran lawmaker to call out Snyder to change the name. In a startling floor speech last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged the owner "to do what is morally right" and "remove this hateful term" from the league.
The team in the US capital has faced a backlash for decades, particularly from Native American groups that see the name as a racial slur.
Waxman cited a Native American expert who described the term as "the equivalent of the N-word."
The congressman also took a veiled swipe at the NFL for its tax privileges, noting how the league is private yet enjoys "substantial tax benefits as a `non-profit` corporation."
"We could play a constructive role in challenging racism by asking Mr. Snyder and (NFL commissioner Roger) Goodell to explain in a public hearing how their actions are consistent with the public interest."
Snyder has adamantly defended the Redskins moniker, saying last year he "will never change the name of the team."