A longtime Arlington County Board member shakes up Virginia politics by announcing plans to step away. Uncertainty clouds the future for the chief of one of Maryland's treasured public school systems. And the field of candidates narrows in D.C.'s special elections looming in the spring.
Four Virginia lawmakers have formed a Redskins Pride Caucus whose aim is to give fans and ticket holders a voice in the ongoing dispute over the team’s name. The group also wants to support the Virginia-based franchise, oppose Congressional involvement in the dispute and champion businesses’ right to their own brands. Co-founder and state delegate David Ramadan joins Kojo to talk about his new caucus and its support for the team.
- David Ramadan Member, Virginia House of Delegates (R - 87th District)
MR. KOJO NNAMDIRedskins fans and ticket holders need a voice in the debate over the team's name, that according to a bipartisan group of four Virginia lawmakers. They've formed the Redskins Pride Caucus and invited their colleagues in the commonwealth's general assembly to join. The group's goals include supporting the Virginia-based team, opposing what it calls inappropriate involvement by the U.S. Congress, and supporting businesses' rights to their own brands.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe legislators announced their new caucus this week, saying they were angered by the U.S. Patent Office's recent decision to end trademark protection for the team's controversial name. Joining me to talk about this name debate is one of the caucus' founders, David Ramadan. He's a state delegate from Loudoun and Prince William Counties. Delegate Ramadan, thank you so much for joining us.
REP. DAVID RAMADANKojo, always good to be back on the show.
NNAMDIWhat prompted you to establish the Redskins Pride Caucus?
RAMADANWe -- Chap Petersen and I were -- read the news. And from different places at different time. And I saw a blog that he had put up. So I sent him a quick text message, said -- knowing the Chap is a hardcore Redskins fan, as I am -- said, "Are you as offended of this as I am?" He said, "Yes, I am."
RAMADANAnd we chatted back and forth and we figured that the fans, the season ticket holders and the team need a voice in Virginia, especially when the U.S. Congress, Senate in particular, decided to create this aura and atmosphere that allowed the trademark office to arbitrarily cancel a 60-year-old trademark. Absolutely insane. Absolutely insane.
NNAMDIWho are the members of the caucus so far and who's invited to join?
RAMADANEverybody's invited to join. The three founders were Delegate Jackson Miller, of Manassas, the majority whip in the House, Chap Petersen, Senator Chap Petersen of Fairfax, and myself. We have four of us that are co-chairing at this point. The three co-founders, along with Senator Louise Lucas, from Portsmouth, also a Democrat. So two Democrats and two Republicans, all members of the general assembly are invited to join. And 28 total have joined so far.
NNAMDIWhat is the mission, Delegate Ramadan, of the Redskins Pride Caucus?
RAMADANWe really have four focus points. One, as I said, is to provide a voice for the Redskins fans and the season ticket holders. The second focus for the caucus will be to support the Redskins franchise. Kojo, this a Virginia-based business. It generates hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable revenue. Money that we use for schools, for roads, for public safety, for other important public services in the commonwealth. And it's being attacked by the feds.
RAMADANThe third focus…
NNAMDIOh, go ahead, please.
RAMADANSorry. Third focus is to oppose this inappropriate involvement by the U.S. Congress in issues surrounding this franchise and its supporters. And fourth, last and not least, is to support overall commercial freedom in the commonwealth and the rights of businesses to their own brands, to their intellectual property.
NNAMDIOur guest is David Ramadan. He's a Virginia state delegate from Loudoun and Prince William Counties. He's a Republican. If you have questions or comments you can call us at 800-433-8850. Do Redskins fans and ticket holders need a voice in the debate over the team's name? 800-433-8850. How did you become a Redskins fan, David Ramadan, even before you came to the United States?
RAMADANI've been a Redskins fan since the 1980s. Back in Beirut, Lebanon, when I has aspired to immigrate to the United States one of the symbols of America was the Redskins team. To me it created pride, it created being warriors, it created freedom, it created success and opportunity. And that's what I aimed for. And I've been a fan ever since, not knowing that I'll ever be in Virginia, not knowing that I'll ever represent Loudoun County in the general assembly, the home of the Redskins. So this comes really close to heart to me.
NNAMDIBut the Redskins Pride Caucus is operating under the assumption that if given a voice fans and season ticket holders will opt for retaining the name when I can think of at least one season ticket holder, Bob McCartney, who writes column for the Washington Post, who is for the change of name. I count myself as a fan of the Redskins for over 40 years. I am for the change of name. Why would you assume that fans and season ticket holders are all in favor of retaining the name?
RAMADANWe made no such assumption, Kojo. We said for those that are in agreement with our belief that it is the right of the Redskins to change their name or not. I am not advocating one way or another here. I know a couple of my colleagues are -- Chap Petersen is very strong on keeping the name. I would like to see that name remain as well, but that's not the debate. The debate is not in my mind, it's should they or should they not. The debate is keep the government out of it. The debate is it's a 60-year-old trademark that has been canceled now.
RAMADANAnd they've got to go through a lawsuit again. In the trademark world, Kojo, a use of a trademark for 60 years is ironclad right. And this is something today that's very dangerous, to have one bureaucrat at a trademark office that can go just strike out a trademark because Kojo or David or John or whoever it is, or because 50 U.S. senators -- none of which represent Virginia -- decided they want to write a letter and give a political coverage to this inappropriate and illegal behavior.
NNAMDIWell, we got an email from Beth, in D.C., who writes, "Republicans say the government should stay out of the NFL Redskins business, yet the NFL enjoys many special benefits bestowed by the federal government, such as an anti-trust exemption and non-profit status for a profit-making operation. So please tell us why the government should stay out only on this one issue? Also please tell us why you are getting involved, when your Party believes that legislatures should not be involved."
RAMADANI appreciate Beth's email. Obviously, she hasn't seen the press conference or what I just said a few minutes ago. This is not a Republican versus Democrat issue. My two -- my co-founders and co-chairmen of the caucus are Democrat.
RAMADANSen. Chap Petersen is a Democrat. Sen. Louise Lucas is a Democrat, whose nephew plays for the Redskins. The chairman and the minority leader of the Virginia Senate, nobody can doubt Dick Saslaw's credentials as a hardcore Democrat. Dick Saslaw is a member of this caucus. So this is not a Democrat versus a Republican issue. This is government versus business issue. Stay out of the business and stay out of this world and certainly for 50 U.S. senators that do not represent Virginia. They need to worry about their own states and the federal work. Not Virginia's football team.
NNAMDIHere's Nicole, in Olney, Md. Nicole, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NICOLEHi. I'd like to say I am a Democrat and I absolutely believe that the government is over -- the federal government is overstepping their boundaries in reference to the name of the Redskins. I do happen to be a huge fan, but I also have documented Native American blood. And have been involved with different situations with different groups. I think they're much more concerned with how we actually treat our native peoples. So I feel if we were to change this name, it's nothing that's -- it's a waste of time.
NICOLEAnd Virginia makes money from it. I do believe it's wrong. You know, we are diehard Redskins fans, but I do believe that there's just so many other things we could do to help these beautiful people that this nation belonged to before we were here.
NNAMDIWhat do you say to that David Ramadan?
RAMADANI thank Nicole for her courage and for her support. I've heard over the past two days from hundreds, hundreds of Native Americans that have emailed me from around the nation, not just from Virginia, in their support of the Redskins. And I've posted many of those in -- on my Facebook.
NNAMDIWe only have about a minute left, but what do you say to people who say what Redskins Pride? This was the last team in the NFL to integrate Africa American players because the owner of the team didn't want to do it and didn't do it for 15 years after African Americans were allowed in -- to play professional football?
RAMADANDifferent owner, different time, different team, at this point. This is not the debate. The debate is the right of a franchise to keep its name that has 60 years of usage, which is an ironclad right and intellectual property, and keeping government out of it. If they want to change their name, good for them. If they do not want to change their name, good for them.
RAMADANThis is what we stand for in Virginia. We stand for business. We stand for economic freedom. And we will not allow the federal government to come in and tell us what needs to be done. And that's why Republicans and Democrats are standing together at the Republican (sic) Pride Caucus.
NNAMDIDavid Ramadan, thank you for joining us.
RAMADANThe Redskins -- thank you.
NNAMDIWe're out of time. David Ramadan is a Virginia state delegate from Loudoun and Prince William Counties. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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