Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday that the NFL is continuing to listen to people who believe the Washington Redskins’ nickname is racist and insensitive to Native Americans.
Goodell, speaking to reporters at a press conference in New York, has weighed in cautiously on the issue over the past six months and has spent time speaking to members of Native American communities to ascertain their feelings toward the name. In October, he met with delegates from the Oneida Indian Nation, which has been among the most outspoken toward changing the team’s name.
“We are listening,” Goodell said. “We are trying to make sure we understand the issues. Let me remind you, this is the name of a football team, a football team that has had that name for 80 years, and has presented the name in a way that has honored Native Americans. We recognize that there are some who don’t agree with the name and we have listened and respected them.”
Redskins owner Dan Snyder has said repeatedly that he will not change the nickname, which followed the team when it moved from Boston following the 1936 season. In October, he wrote a letter to season ticketholders, noting the name is “a symbol of everything we stand for” but also acknowledging that he respects “the opinions of those who disagree.”
The team has continually cited the results of polls, one of which, conducted jointly by The Associated Press and GfK in May, showed nearly four in five Americans don’t think the name should be changed while 11 percent do.
Goodell mentioned similar numbers when asked about the topic on Friday.
“If you look at the numbers, including in Native American communities, in a Native American community poll, nine out of ten supported the name,” Goodell said. “Eight out of ten Americans in the general population would not like us to change the name. So, we are listening. We are being respectful of people who disagree, but let’s not forget this is the name of a football team.”
Oneida Indian Nation spokesman Ray Halbritter, in an e-mailed statement, responded to Goodell by noting the nickname’s connotations.
“It is deeply troubling that with the Super Bowl happening on lands that were once home to Native Americans, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would use the event as a platform to insist that the dictionary-defined ‘R-word’ racial slur against Native Americans is somehow a sign of honor,” Halbritter said in the statement. “The fact that Mr. Goodell doesn’t seem to know any of this – or is deliberately ignoring it – suggests that for all the claims he is listening, he isn’t listening at all.”