Lost in the remembrances of Martin Luther King Day celebrations was this news, released on this day honoring the civil rights icon because of its significant social nature: The Fritz Pollard Alliance, perhaps the most influential organization the NFL works with on racial issues, said it supports the Washington Redskins changing its name, saying it’s a team decision.
The NFL has mouth about every other thing that happens in the league—the color of players’ cleats, if they speak to the media after a game, how they celebrate a touchdown, etc.—and yet on this lingering concern, it has nothing to offer?
That’s why it is important that the Fritz Pollard Alliance used King Day to voice its support of a name change. The NFL supposedly respects and takes heed to the recommendations of this group. We will see on this one. The alliance, named after Fritz Pollard, the first Black to play in the NFL, is responsible for promoting minority hiring throughout the NFL.
The group’s leaders have met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell—but Redskins owner Daniel Snyder refuses to sit down with them. Snyder has been adamant about not changing the name that some Native Americans consider racially insensitive and refers to the slaughter of countless Native Americans.
Black people overwhelmingly seem to get it, and with good reason. From Colored to Negro to Afro-American to African-American to Black, there was a movement to get the identifiable name right, to accurately depict who we are in America. Blacks would not stand for a team’s mascot carrying any of the derogatory monickers whites have used to insult us. Native Americans should not, either.
Other Native Americans say it’s not offensive. Synder rolls with the side that thinks the team’s name should remain as it has been since 1937.
“As the NFL continues to move in the direction of respect and dignity, one of its teams carrying this name cuts glaringly against the grain,” read a letter co-signed by John Wooten, the alliance’s chairman and a former lineman for Washington. “It hurts the League and it hurts us all.”
The Seattle Post-Intelligence reported last week that the Seattle Human Rights Commission said in a resolution passed that residents of Seattle should boycott corporate sponsors of Washington until Snyder changes the team’s name.
Some around the NFL have vowed to not use “Redskins” when talking about that team, including NFL Phil Simms of CBS and Tony Dungy. Former NFL referee Mike Carey revealed he was allowed to avoid Washington games for eight years due to he did not like the team’s name.
All this, and it still might not make a difference. If it is not made a law that Snyder change the name, he likely will not change it. And that would be part of his legacy as Redskins’ owner. . . and the consistent losing.