LYNDEN, Washington — In the last fortnight, Washingtonians have been basking in the effervescent glow of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl rout and showing the rest of the country that those World Trade Organization riots were an outside job.
On the night of the victory, Seattle partied just hard enough. Revelers and cops behaved themselves. These were mobs that waited for traffic lights. The city’s latte-sipping finest moved crowds along only when they got too out of hand.
Cops isolated too-wasted troublemakers and shoved them into taxis. There was little vandalism. Only a handful of arrests were made. Turnout for the Hawks’ homecoming parade shattered all expectations, in part because most principals let their kids out of school that day.
And how did Washington state’s junior senator decide to celebrate this historic victory? Through a spectacular display of bullying and poor sportsmanship.
“Sen. Maria Cantwell criticizes Redskins team name,” was the Seattle Times’s boringly misleading headline.
Criticism is one thing. It’s a free country and we have the right.
That’s what President Barack Obama did when asked. If he owned the Washington Redskins team, Obama told the AP in December, “I’d think about changing it.”
No, what Cantwell really did was threaten the NFL if it doesn’t knuckle under to the campaign of concern by our nation’s progressive hall monitors.
Cantwell prepared and publicized an extraordinary letter along with the Oklahoma Republican congressman Tom Cole. It was addressed not to Dan Snyder, the Redskins owner who has every right to change his team’s name, but to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who doesn’t — or at least shouldn’t.
The Redskins’ team name, Cantwell warned, “is on the wrong side of history.”
She blew off Goodell’s argument that most flesh-and-blood Native Americans who have written to the NFL expressing an opinion one way or the other have supported keeping the team name.
“It is, in fact, an insult to Native Americans,” she insisted, because she thinks it should be insulting. The letter could have been considered a more strident and far less convincing than Obama’s gentle attempts to sway folks on the subject, but Cantwell couldn’t stop there.
She and Cole were “calling on [Goodell] and the National Football League to take a formal position in support of a name change,” the letter continued.
Nor was this a polite call. They insinuated that the Redskins team name somehow threatens the “constitutionally protected” relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes.
Cantwell’s determination of the term’s offensiveness, the letter opined, “is what will and should guide federal policymakers.”
She argued that the Patent and Trademark Office ought to strip the team of its trademarks, making merchandizing profits impossible. She further not so subtly threatened the tax-exempt status of the NFL if it didn’t “formally support and push for a name change for the Washington football team.”
You’ve got to love that last line, where she was unwilling to call the Redskins by their proper name even to say the name ought to go.
But the U.S. Constitution treats other things as far more sacrosanct than the bond between tribal governments and the feds. Such as the right to freedom of speech or the freedom to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
That last bit is relevant because it seems to me that Redskins fans might have a legitimate gripe about Maria Cantwell’s behavior, and that the gripe might extend well beyond Redskins fans.
I mean, here she is abusing her position of power to threaten a cherished organization over what many think is a PC trifle, and threatening the tax exempt status of the nation’s most successful sport while she’s at it. That’s bound to annoy some people, right?
Fortunately, the White House has set up a special “We the People” page on its website where people can post and sign their name to petitions to redress our grievances. The administration will even issue a formal response if enough people lend their cyber John Hancocks.
I can’t imagine it will be too long before some enterprising Redskins fan posts a petition calling for Cantwell to be forced to change her name. They could even throw in Cole for good measure, to give the petition real bipartisan support.
Or perhaps they could be allowed to keep their names but be denied the ability to profit from having them listed on ballots.