Washington, DC - Baseball is back in Washington, DC. After a 34 year hiatus, America's capital has a new baseball team with a new name and a new image. While many fans know the new team is called the Washington Nationals, few people outside of the District know the significance of the team's new name.
This new persona is no accident. The decision to name the team the 'Washington Nationals' instead of the 'Senators,' DC's former baseball team, stems from the District's more than 200 year history of being denied voting rights in Congress. The residents of Washington, DC, have no voting representation in Congress: no voting U.S. Senators or U.S. Congressmen.
"We don't have senators here," said DC Mayor Anthony Williams in October of 2004. "Give us two senators, and I'll be happy to call them [the baseball team] the 'Senators.'"
The change in the team name reflects a shift in the way people think about DC and its nearly 600,000 residents. A recent national poll showed that 82 percent of Americans believe DC residents should have equal voting rights in Congress.
"Democracy is a birthright for all Americans, including those in DC," said Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote. "It's time to let DC vote in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House."
Besides the new name of DC's baseball team, the voting rights movement has influenced other elements of local culture. Hundreds of thousands of cars in the DC area display official District license plates carrying the phrase "Taxation Without Representation."
The change in team name is the second time in recent months the topics of baseball and Congress have collided on a national level. In March, the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform heard testimony from subpoenaed baseball players on the topic of steroid use in the sport.
"Clearly, members of Congress and their staff have an interest in baseball," Zherka said. "We're trying to connect America's pastime with American democracy. What's more symbolic of America than voting and baseball?"
DC Vote is an educational and advocacy organization whose mission is to secure full voting representation in Congress for the residents of the District of Columbia.