In nearly six months since becoming the new head coach of the Washington franchise, Ron Rivera hadn’t been asked about the team’s controversial name. On Monday, he was.
During a Monday afternoon interview on 670 The Score’s McNeil & Parkins Show, Rivera faced the subject. “I think that’s a discussion for another time,” Rivera said, adding that the team’s name was “always part of football” when he was growing up.
If it’s a discussion for another time, when is that other time? Many would say that, if right now isn’t the right time, there is no right time.”
“I think it’s all about the moment and the timing,” Rivera added. “But, you know, I’m just somebody that’s from a different era that when football wasn’t such a big part of the political scene. You know, that’s one of the tough things for me, too, is I’ve always wanted to try to keep that separate. People have wanted me to get involved in politics, you know, when I was coaching and I kept telling them, ‘It’s not for me to get up here and influence people.’ I have my beliefs, I know what I think, you know, I support the movements, you know, support the players. I believe in what they’re doing and, again, you know, I think that there are certain elements to certain things that it’s all about the timing and the best time to discuss those things.”
That’s fine, but it runs counter to the broad message sent by Rivera two weeks ago in an email to all team employees, where he explained that an internal town hall discussion had given him “new perspective on many of the societal issues that have been highlighted and learned a great deal after hearing all your stories, experiences and suggestions about how our organization can make a difference in helping to make our community safer for people of color.” He also said that the town hall meeting is “only the beginning and we still want to hear your suggestions on how we as an organization can take action in the fight against social injustice and police brutality, with an invitation to “reflect on our discussions this past week and really dive in and do some research to come up with additional ideas that we can implement to improve our community.”
Those messages to team employees came days after Rivera made this public declaration: “I have been tasked with leading this entire organization and I have always believed in the mantra that actions speak louder than words.”
The only action that makes sense in this moment is changing the name. It’s a dictionary-defined slur, with the team’s only safe harbor coming from a flawed 2016 Washington Post poll of self-identifying Native Americans, only nine percent of whom are offended by the name. (As if nine percent is acceptable.)
And so it appears that, like the NFL is doing with Colin Kaepernick, Rivera could be trying to run out the clock, hopeful that the pressure to change the name in this moment yields to a moment during which people are paying attention to something else.