NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell supported the Washington Redskins in January of this year, but in the past month, the tone has changed slightly. Now statements address that he will not tell the announcers of the NFLs’ collaborates what they can and cannot say on the air. There is a fine line being walked by Mr. Goodell in regards to the Redskins name and the controversy it has spawned.
According to Politico earlier this week, Roger Goodell will have no say in what broadcasters can discuss on the air. This is similar to what CBS has told its reporters as well – Sean McManus CBS Sports Chairman has said that they usually do not dictate talking points to their announcers. It will be left up to the announcers and the producers as to how the Redskins are referred to on air.
The term “redskin” has been under fire from many who claim the word is offensive to Native Americans. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term was first mention in the late 17th century and specifically referred the Delaware Tribe. “Redskin” described the paint they used on their face and body. Like many words in the English language, there are different meanings and connotations depending on what one says and how one uses the word. It can be positive, negative, or neutral.
Those that disagree with Goodell’s stance see the term Redskin as negative no matter how it is used. An article in the New York Times from June tells Goodell that part of his job as commissioner is to persuade Dan Synder, the Redskins owner, that he is wrong in not changing the name of the team. The Times likens what is happening with the Redskins to the Sterling scandal and the NBA.
Ask Rick Reilly over at ESPN though what he thinks about the Redskins and the potential name change and he will turn the questions back on the public. His article last Sept. asks about changing the names of the Atlanta Braves and the Kansas City Chiefs if the Washington Redskins name is offensive. He interviewed his father-in-law and some schools with predominately Indian populations and the resounding answer was that they had no problem with the Redskins’ name.
If anything, he found some Native Americans were offended by the Kansas City Chiefs mascot because the headdress was something one had to earn. Thus, anyone wearing it who has not earned one is being offensive to its intended meaning. According to Reilly’s article, the fine line Roger Goodell is walking with the Washington Redskins should be with another NFL team.
Dan Synder does not think the name of his team is an issue either. He is of the opinion that people are making an issue out of a non-issue. Snyder, in April article from CBS Sports, says that there are real issues that people need to focus on instead. He even created a foundation, Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, to help with these real issues.
The chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association thinks Snyder is trying to buy people with the foundation, according to the same article. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also criticized Snyder in March also predicting that the team would change its name in the next few years.
In each interview, Synder reiterates that he will never change the name of the Washington Redskins. Roger Goodell wrote a letter to 10 Congressmen last year petitioning in Synder’s favor. This year, he has backed up a little from forthright support to passively leaving the name-dropping choice to announcers and his affiliates. There is a fine line to walk in regards to the Washington Redskins’ name and Roger Goodell is attempting to find an increasingly difficult compromise that leaves both sides happy.
Commentary by Sara Kourtsounis