NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has defended the Washington Redskins’ nickname by saying that it “stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.” Native American author Mark Anthony Rolo says he and other Native Americans don’t see anything respectful about it.
In a column published by several papers as part of the McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Rolo said that Goodell’s statement can’t hide the fact that the name of one of the NFL’s 32 teams is offensive to Native Americans.
“Goodell’s offensive reply is not only cowardly, but it is also an antiquated defense reminiscent of those who refused to recognize other pop culture stereotypes such as Little Black Sambo and Frito Bandito,” Rolo wrote.
Rolo suspects that the real motivation of Goodell and Redskins owner Dan Snyder is simply that they’re worried that a name change would cost the league merchandising money. In a story about the Redskins controversy in the New York Times, marketing experts suggest that there may be truth to that, and having to change names could cost the team millions.
If the Redskins lose their trademark protection, however, it may turn out to be financially damaging to the team to keep its name, as it would no longer be able to control its own merchandising. And a group of Native Americans is currently challenging the Redskins’ trademark on the grounds that a racial slur cannot be trademarked. If the team loses that battle, it may decide to change its name not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the right thing for the bottom line.