Last week, NFLPA president Eric Winston said the union didn’t plan to get in the middle of the dispute regarding the name of the Washington NFL franchise. Now, the NFLPA is sort of in the middle of it.
In a statement issued to the Washington Post in response to the letter sent by more than 75 Native American and civil rights groups to all players urging opposition to the Washington team name, NFLPA DeMaurice Smith explains that the name reflects “racial insensitivity.”
“I have conveyed my thoughts on this issue both to Roger and to the team,” Smith said. “They understand our position and I believe that those conversations are most effective when they can remain private. As I have stated publicly, though, I do not believe anyone should inflict pain, embarrass or insult, especially given the racial insensitivity of the term ‘Redskin.’ As you know, I grew up here and like all Washingtonians I became a fan of this team. The beauty of sports and of the Washington football franchise is that it will always have the ability to bring this community together, regardless of what decision is made about the team name.”
While the union officially tiptoes around the political hot potato, the NFL’s players are in position to do a cannonball into the deep end, if they choose to do so. The open call for all of them to publicly oppose the name coupled with Thursday’s hashtag debacle could (and arguably should) prompt players to speak their minds about the team’s name.
It will take some courage. In this age of free agency, it’s not wise to close one of the 32 available doorways to employment. But if doing the right thing were always easy, then everyone would always do the right thing, right?