It’s worth noting that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this week appeared to change his tune, however subtly, on the subject of whether the Redskins should find an alternative to the increasingly controversial team nickname. In a pair of radio interviews he was pressed on just how the NFL plans to deal with the issue. Redskins owner Dan Snyder has said publicly that he will “never” change the name.
In a Wednesday interview on 106.7 FM with LaVar Arrington and Chad Dukes, Goodell said, “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.” He went on: “Ultimately it is Dan’s decision, but it is something that I want to make sure all of us are going out and 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 the team represents the strong tradition it has for so many years.”
Contrast that with the June letter on the subject that Goodell sent to members of the Congressional Native American Caucus, who had asked him to enforce a name change. In the letter, Goodell said the nickname had a “positive meaning,” had been “confirmed in a legal context,” and is favored by “the overwhelming majority of football fans and Americans generally, including Native Americans.” He called it a unifying force that stands for courage, pride, and respect.
In a Thursday interview on the John Feinstein Show, Feinstein brought up the Wednesday interview and pressed further. Referring to Goodell’s saying “if we are offending one person,” Feinstein said, “Clearly more than one person is offended. What action based on that do you as commissioner need to take?”
Goodell replied, “I think that’s part of the evolution here. To sort of understand that, we have to go out and listen, we have to understand, and if there are things we can do to address that in a responsible fashion we should do that. But I’m not going to speculate on what that is right now.” He closed out discussion of the subject by saying, “We’ll find a solution.”
What that means to us is we wouldn’t be surprised to learn—obviously at a later stage—that somewhere, possibly in a soundproofed room at Redskins Park, there could be top-secret discussions of just how to find that “solution.”
It came up Thursday at Capitol Hill’s Hawk and Dove, where the NFL cohosted a party to launch the new Madden NFL 25 game. Standing together, Adolpho Birch and Kenneth Edmonds, who run the League’s DC-based government affairs office, were asked whether Goodell’s comments were a change of direction and newsworthy.
They smiled. “What do you think?” they asked.
We think yes.