When the President of the United States talks, the Redskins cover their ears.
President Obama said Friday the team should think about changing its nickname. Moments later, Dan Snyder probably sent out a memo instructing employees, players, fans and the mascot to cover their ears. Maybe that will make all the noise go away.
Remember, this is the guy who told USA Today he would never change the team’s nickname.
“NEVER,” Snyder said. “You can use all caps.”
Please, Dan – LISTEN. That noise you hear isn’t going away, so your team’s name eventually will. Right or wrong, public pressure will see to that.
The most troubling thing for Snyder isn’t even what Obama said. The Redskins and the NFL want the name to become a non-issue. The only way the debate will die is if people stop talking about it. Now, the most powerful man on earth is weighing in.
I’m not here to argue either way. It’s already been argued to death, and both sides can only agree that the other is hypersensitive, racist and idiotic. Now, the merits don’t matter as much as the noise.
A lot of people are asking, “Doesn’t the president have more important things to do than worry about the nickname of an NFL team?”
Sure he does. That’s why Obama sat down Friday for an interview with The Associated Press. After questions on the government shutdown, Iran, Obamacare, Afghanistan troop levels and Ted Cruz, the reporter had a final throwaway question about the Redskins controversy.
Obama was careful to exonerate the loyal fan base, but said, “I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things.”
The shocker would have been if he’d defended the name. Or he could easily have dodged the issue with a non-answer. But Obama knows the political landscape, and he felt safe enough to take a controversial position.
Is it an issue of national importance? No, but since when does that matter in the sports world?
The throwaway question is getting more attention than anything Obama said to Cruz about Iran, and Snyder isn’t even threatening to acquire nukes. It adds to the drip, drip, drip that’s been eroding the Redskins’ strategy.
Drip – Washington D.C.’s mayor said if the Redskins ever want to move back into the city, changing the name will be an issue.
Drip – More and more media outlets refusing to use “Redskins” in stories about the team.
Drip – Native American groups have protested at games. And they’ll be protesting Monday outside the NFL meeting in Washington.
Drip – Ten members of Congress sending a letter to Snyder and the NFL asking the team to change its name.
Drip – Roger Goodell initially defended the name to Congress. Then he told a D.C. radio station, “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.”
That was more than a drip. That was a signal that NFL owners are getting tired of the noise and nobody is buying what general manager Bruce Allen has been selling.
“I think it’s a non-issue,” he said. “And it’s been a non-issue for decades.”
Yes, but those decades ended in 1989. Since the Redskins bring up history, there is some precedent involved.
The team’s original owner, George Preston Marshall, refused to integrate the roster. Years after the rest of the league had African-American players, Marshall said the NAACP stood for “Never at Anytime Any Colored Players.”
Commissioner Pete Rozelle initially said the controversy was “strictly a club problem.” He didn’t intervene, but pressure grew.
Finally when the Redskins moved to a stadium on federal land in Washington D.C., the Kennedy Administration threatened to kill the deal unless the Redskins adhered to federal anti-discrimination policies. That’s how Doug Williams led the Redskins to a Super Bowl win 25 years later.
Obama (presumably) isn’t going to issue an executive order or sick the Department of Justice on the Redskins. All he’s done is add a big voice to the chorus of change.
All Snyder can do is cover his ears and proclaim NEVER!