News & Politics

Did NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Pivot on the Redskins Nickname?

It was Topic A on the radio and at a Capitol Hill NFL party.

Adolpho Birch and Kenneth Edmonds, of NFL’s DC-based team handling government affairs, at the Madden NFL 25 launch party they cohosted at Hawk and Dove—not saying too much about commissioner Roger Goodell. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

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

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

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.