An NFL team changing its name because it was forced to do so? Seems impossible, because as we learned earlier today, the NFL rules everything. But this controversy with the Washington Redskins name just doesn’t seem to be going away, no matter how hard that Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen try and wish it into the cornfield.
And now they may have lost a key, staunch supporter. Commish Roger Goodell, who just three months ago had come down firmly in support of keeping the name, seems to have done a sudden Frank Pentangeli u-turn on the issue.
What caused the change heart? A horse head in his bed? The answer is shrouded in mystery. What we do know is that Goodell is appearing to crack, and if he goes, that could bring down the whole dam. Huffington Post:
“If we are offending one person, we need to be listening and making sure that we’re doing the right things to try to address that,” Goodell said during an interview with LaVar Arrington and Chad Dukes on 106.7 The Fan in Washington on Wednesday.
Dukes raised the polarizing subject of the Redskins’ name with Goodell, asking if the power to alter it rested solely with team owner Daniel Snyder, who has previously insisted that he will “never” agree to a change.
“Well, as you guys know, I grew up in Washington. So, the Colts were my team early on, and then I became a Redskins fan,” Goodell responded. “I know the team name is part of their history and tradition — and that’s something that’s important to the Redskins’ fans — and I think what we have to do though is we have to listen. If one person’s offended, we have to listen. And, ultimately, it is Dan’s decision. But it is something that I want all of us to go out and make sure we’re listening to our fans, listening to people who have a different view, and making sure that we continue to do what’s right to make sure that team represents the strong tradition and history that it has for so many years.”
Goodell had defended the Redskins name as recently as this past May, when he wrote a letter to Congress which included:
“For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”
That’s some bullshit, of course, at which Goodell excels. In fact, the franchise has a pretty poor record in diversity and unification, being as it is the last NFL team to sign a black player.
It wasn’t until 1962 that team owner George Preston Marshall signed an African-American player — Heisman-winning running back Ernie Davis — and then only because he was forced to do so. The federal government had to in effect step in to integrate the Redskins, as Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall told Marshall that the team would be kicked out of its stadium if they didn’t do so. (D.C. Stadium was a federal government property).
History may somewhat be repeating itself.
It’s estimated that a name change would cost the NFL $20 million in rebranding, so don’t look for anything to happen soon — especially in light of the fact that the league just shelled out more than $700 million in that concussion settlement.
But the glacier is beginning to move. Probably should start thinking of a new name now and beat the rush.