Mark Moseley, the only kicker ever to be named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, put his toe — and the rest of his foot — into it with recent comments about the team’s name.
In remarks to the Associated Press, Moseley said, “I’m telling you somebody would have to drop a bomb on FedEx Field to get us to change.”
That’s hardly the best choice of words, but Moseley’s over-the-top characterization illustrates the zeal with which both sides are pursuing an issue that feels like a political campaign that will never end. Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post has collected a variety of recent quotes on the issue, including the latest attempt to blame the controversy on those with an agenda other than trying to right a longstanding wrong.
“Politicians,” former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann said. “It’s an election year.”
It wasn’t an election year when the debate first gained real traction. That came in early 2013, when the team coincidentally opted to launch an affirmative defense of the name with a variety of clumsy tactics, such as pointing out all the high schools that still use the name. The P.R. blunders and missteps continued into 2014, and the team has tried in recent weeks to ramp up the defense of the name in the apparent hopes of delivering the knockout punch, from throwing money at Native American causes to launching a propaganda website to recruiting former players to speak out (the current franchise quarterback has avoided the issue) to multiple interviews with owner Daniel Snyder.
The K.O. hasn’t come. And it won’t. Instead, efforts to defend the name emphasize and legitimize the conflict, hardening the two sides.
If the team had merely ignored the scattered complaints and attacks and arguments, the issue possibly would have never gathered momentum. And it possibly would have continued to be part of the background noise that the media generally ignored. Instead, the debate now rages more strongly than ever, with politicians, athletes, entertainers (like Gene Simmons of KISS), and others in positions or prominence or otherwise having an opinion and expressing it. For many, the opinions have become stronger and stronger.
Last year, I predicted that the debate would continue until the name changes in 50 years, that the debate would continue for another 50 years after it changes, and that I hoped to live for as many of those 100 years as possible. Now, it feels like the first half will be shorter, and that the last half will be longer.
Indeed, the debate will not go away in the lifetimes of anyone who has a strong opinion on the issue. Strong opinions will likely persist for decades after the name inevitably changes, whenever that may be.