Virginia Gubernatorial Candidates Stumble on Redskins Name During Debate

Area fans don’t think the name should be changed. What about these candidates?

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III during a game against the Detroit Lions in Landover, Md.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
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Matt Vasilogambros
Sept. 26, 2013, 6:15 a.m.

Al­though the team is based in Mary­land and has Wash­ing­ton’s name­sake, the Red­skins foot­ball team was the sub­ject of a ques­tion dur­ing the Vir­gin­ia gubernat­ori­al de­bate on Wed­nes­day night. And it caught the can­did­ates off-guard.

NBC’s Chuck Todd, the mod­er­at­or of the de­bate and a big sports fan, asked if the name should be changed, cit­ing wide­spread con­cern over its of­fens­ive­ness to Nat­ive Amer­ic­ans. It seems to be one of the few is­sues the two rivals agree on.

First up was Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate Terry McAul­iffe, who stumbled on the ques­tion:

“I don’t think the gov­ernor ought to be telling private busi­nesses what they should do about their busi­ness,” he said at first.

Todd in­ter­jec­ted, “Even if it’s of­fens­ive to people?”

“I don’t think the gov­ernor should be telling private busi­nesses,” McAul­iffe in­sisted.

“Do you have a per­son­al opin­ion on it?” Todd pressed.

“As gov­ernor, I’m not go­ing to tell Dan Snyder or any­body else what they should do in busi­ness. And I want to con­grat­u­late the Red­skins, be­cause I went down to the train­ing park in Rich­mond, and it is spec­tac­u­lar, Gov­ernor Mc­Don­nell,” McAul­iffe said be­fore get­ting heckled by a mem­ber of the crowd and cut off by Todd.

Hav­ing wit­nessed this, Cuc­cinelli was bet­ter pre­pared.

“I think that is up to them en­tirely,” Cuc­cinelli said. “I think that 80 years of his­tory with that team is kind of hard to leave be­hind. I un­der­stand that. I also don’t think RGIII should have been played in the second quarter in the play­offs last years.”

Quar­ter­back Robert Griffin III, also known as RGIII, suffered a sea­son-end­ing in­jury after play­ing in game des­pite a doc­tor’s warn­ing. Wheth­er he should have played has been a con­ten­tious de­bate for some months.

And maybe the can­did­ates’ an­swers, however un­grace­ful, were smart polit­ic­ally. Ac­cord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post poll re­leased in June, 61 per­cent of Wash­ing­ton area res­id­ents like the name of the foot­ball team and two-thirds say the team shouldn’t change its name.

Though it doesn’t look like there’s go­ing to be any pres­sure from the Old Domin­ion to do so, some still in­sist that own­er Dan Snyder make a change. Even some mem­bers of Con­gress have pub­licly called for a name change.

Here’s the video of the de­bate ex­change:

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