For the past 14 years, Dan Snyder, principal owner of the Washington Redskins football franchise, has defied incessant calls from activists and journalists to change his team’s name and Indian logo to something less “offensive.” In May, he added extra rebar and a moat of burning oil to his previous vows on the name-change, telling USA Today that “We’ll never change the name,” adding, “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
Obviously, Snyder could never have thought that a good liberal like President Barack Obama would side with him on the issue. The best Snyder could hope for was that the president would remain too busy with domestic and global crises to comment on the dispute.
Then, in an interview last weekend with the Associated Press, Obama suited up and entered the name-change field. What was his position on the name of the Washington Redskins football team, the AP asked. Is it insulting to Native Americans? Did he think it should be changed? Obama acknowledged the controversy diplomatically, careful not to rile Redskins loyalists, but said that if he were an owner of the team, “I’d think about changing it.”
The loss of the president was not as grave as the loss of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who retreated from his adamant support of the Redskins name last month when he told a local D.C. radio audience, “If one person is offended, we have to listen.” Just four months ago, he wrote a letter to 10 protesting members of Congress that the nickname was “a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”
Now, with Obama opposing him and the commissioner of his own league backing down, it’s officially Dan Snyder against the world.