- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2013

RICHMOND — The Washington Redskins are proud of their nickname, and they don’t plan on changing it amid intensified criticism.

General manager Bruce Allen on Thursday cited the team’s history and benign intent in defending its nickname against claims it is racially offensive.

“I’m proud to be the general manager of the Washington Redskins,” Allen said. “We represent an iconic sports franchise that’s 81 years old, that involves millions of fans worldwide, that has thousands of alumni. It’s ludicrous to think in any way that we’re trying to upset anybody.”

The long-running controversy surrounding the nickname recently resurfaced as a topic of media coverage and commentary ahead of a hearing next month in the latest lawsuit to strip federal trademark protection from the name.

The team is not considering a change, Allen said.

“There’s nothing that we feel that is offensive, and we’re proud of our history,” Allen said. “To suggest that players and coaches and fans are thinking any other way, it doesn’t make sense.”

Several Native American groups, including the National Congress of American Indians, recently intensified their public criticism of the nickname.

Allen said that in the early 1970s, the president of the NCAI, in conjunction with members of the Red Cloud Athletic Fund, requested the team change its logo to the current American Indian head from the “R” that was featured on the team’s helmets.

Allen addressed reporters at a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the team’s new training camp facility in Richmond. The Redskins this summer will host training camp away from team headquarters in Ashburn for the first time 2002.

Allen discussed a variety of other team-related subjects:

• He said the Redskins plan to establish an in-season schedule for re-sodding the playing surface at FedEx Field to avoid the worn-out surface that drew widespread criticism from players and league officials at the end of last season.

“Once the schedule comes out [in April], our people are ready to commit to a schedule so we have some new sod for the end of the year,” Allen said. “But obviously it’s not going to grow. We’re not in Florida. But we think that is going to address the playing field in December and, hopefully, January.”

Installing artificial grassy turf is not an option, Allen said. Coach Mike Shanahan strongly favors playing on natural grass.

• Allen said the Redskins continue to consider ways to fight the penalty that reduces their 2013 salary cap by $18 million. But he would not specify what actions the team might take.

“There’s plenty of things we can do, but now is not the time [to publicize them],” Allen said. “And I know you guys are a little frustrated that we’ve been saying that for almost a year now. But the time is coming up.”

The NFL penalized the Redskins $36 million in salary cap space March 12, the day before the 2012 league year began. Half of the penalty applied to Washington’s 2012 salary cap, and the other half applies to 2013.

The Redskins in May lost in arbitration a grievance disputing the penalty. The NFL Players Association filed a collusion lawsuit against the NFL the following day, but that was dismissed by a federal judge in December.

As it stands, the Redskins are believed to be about $4 million over their estimated penalty-reduced 2013 salary cap. They have until March 12 to get under the cap.

“I think the penalty was wrong, and it was unfair,” Allen said. “We will deal with that.”

• Allen said quarterback Robert Griffin III continues to progress in his recovery from right knee surgery.

• Linebacker London Fletcher, 37, has not informed the team whether he plans to continue his career, but Allen said he believes the four-time Pro Bowler has three or four good years left.

• The team can’t fully gauge tight end Fred Davis’ recovery from left Achilles’ tendon surgery until later this spring, Allen said. Davis is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 12.

• The team’s wide receivers coaching position remains unfilled, Allen said.

• Rich Campbell can be reached at rcampbell@washingtontimes.com.

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