Scene in D.C.: Football Gala Before Vote on Redskins Name

Football stars turned out for a charity gala as debate heated up before a decision is reached on the name of the Washington Redskins.

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the National Football League’s Players Association, said the issue was personal for him.

“I grew up here; you come out of the womb a Redskin fan,” he said. “But I don’t think anyone should inflict pain on another person, especially since the Oneida Indian Nation has been vocal about what the term ‘Redskin’ meant. It was a slur. The beautiful thing about that team is that it will always be a part of this community, regardless what the name is.”

Tomorrow, the D.C. Council, the chief policy-making body for the District of Columbia, will vote on a motion calling for a change of the Redskin name, after a decades-long debate.

Smith was joined by other major names in football such as Cris Carter and Paul Tagliabue on Saturday night for the 27th annual Lombardi Gala. The event raised an estimated $700,000 for the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in the name of Vince Lombardi, the late coach of the Green Bay Packers. He was treated for the disease at Georgetown University Hospital.

Carter, a former wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings, accepted the NFL Players Association Georgetown Lombardi Award for Larry Fitzgerald. The wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals established the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund. It’s named for his mother who died of breast cancer.

Carter said that Fitzgerald’s charity “sets the standard” for athletes on and off the football field.

Difficult Choice

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said of the debate over the Redskins name. “I can see both sides of it. It’s very, very difficult.”

Tagliabue, a former commissioner of the NFL, deferred to the leaders involved. “That’s for commissioner Goodell and Mr. Snyder,” he said, referring to Roger Goodell and Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington team.

Even President Barack Obama has weighed in on the controversy, saying if he were Snyder, he would consider changing the name. Snyder has said repeatedly he won’t change the name, and that it honors Native Americans.

(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

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