By Mike Wise
The answer, we found out Monday, is now.
League officials have reached out to the Oneida Nation, which sponsored Monday’s symposium and suddenly has been passed the name-change baton from Suzan Shown Harjo after more than two decades.
The NFL, through Adolphus Birch, its senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs, has asked that a meeting originally scheduled for Nov. 22 be moved up—and, if needed, to the Oneida reservation in Verona, N.Y.
Think about that: The NFL, which has spent tens of thousands of dollars defending the team from American Indian plaintiffs seeking to strip its trademark in court for the better part of two decades, has offered to go to the res to talk.
Tiring of the sustained momentum the issue has gained since the beginning of the year, including a national radio ad campaign denouncing the team’s name in each city it plays—tired of the widespread publicity, which runs the gamut from the Indian Country Today media network to NBC’s “Meet the Press”—Goodell has sent an emissary to act on his behalf.
The commissioner and others also may be tired of team owner Daniel Snyder’s cold brazenness toward the offended. They simply can’t take his tone-deafness on the issue anymore; it’s bad business.
If the NFL is as boxed in as it appears and Birch and others from the league office aren’t going on a patronizing P.R. mission, this is the first step in the matter being taken out of Snyder’s hands—the first clear indication that the name is eventually going down.
I thought this past winter it might happen within 10 years. My guess now is five years or less, maybe three—and that’s just to accommodate the time it will take to reach a settlement with the team, find a new name and license, market and promote it.
And we think we know what the new name will be.
By Chris Chase
Just think, if Daniel Snyder had been willing to deal with the issue rather than with indignant defiance, he could have avoided this mess. The Redskins owner should have hosted Native American leaders on both sides of the issue and listened to their concerns. Even if there was still opposition, there could have been compromise. Maybe the Redskins would have agreed to donate money to Native American charities or fund football programs at high schools. Or Snyder could have changed the team’s logo, replacing the Native American caricature with an “R,” like the helmets from 1970. That change wouldn’t have affected the name, but it would have shown Snyder to be sensitive and understanding, thus delaying a debate about the name. If the Redskins had Native American support, the story would have died.
Instead, he and the Redskins played it wrong at every turn. They’re going to pay for that short-sightedness.
But neither Snyder nor the NFL will be strong-armed into changing the name. There are too many egos involved for that. Snyder isn’t going to let Mike Wise run his franchise and the NFL won’t want to change league policy because of public pressure. So, for now, they’ll both weather the storm. Then, when the uproar has quieted down, the team will make a surprise announcement about a name change.
It’s a strategy used effectively by Augusta National Golf Club when there was a controversy over its membership policies. A national campaign led by Martha Burk tried to force Augusta to admit women. The membership held firm, rode out the rough patch, then changed its policy years later. Burk won, but Augusta National was able to save face.
The Redskins won’t have the same luxuries as Augusta, because this story is capable of quickly going off the rails. Right now, the debate is mostly toothless. It’s being played out in newspapers and televisions with little interest from fans or sponsors. But if the Redskins make the Super Bowl in the next few years, the story will becomes worldwide news. It will be two weeks of talk about the name rather than a celebration of football. Or what happens if one sponsor comes out against the name? Others may quickly get in line. Once money is involved, a change may have to be made. The key for the Redskins and the NFL will be to act before they have no other choice.
More pressure from the "newspaper of record"--specifically, from Maureen Dowd, a major NY Times columnist:
Call an Audible, Dan
Redskins’ Name Change Remains Activist’s Unfinished Business