Officially, the Washington NFL franchise is thinking about changing its name. As a practical matter, the franchise is changing its name.
As the process moves forward, will the team consult Native American groups?
Based on a new item in the Washington Post, it appears that the team has not yet reached out to any of the organizations representing Native Americans. Indeed, the Friday statement from owner Daniel Snyder listed a variety of groups that would be consulted as part of the process, and he did not mention any Native American leaders or organizations.
“I don’t think it’s too much of a challenge to find a non-racist epithet, a non-racist name to call the team,” sRay Halbritter, an Oneida Nation Representative and long-time opponent of the team name, told the Post. “It would be met with some welcome, some discussion about that. If you’re talking about a people, it is probably a good idea to have a conversation with them. It seems reasonable. If I was the owner of a team, I would feel it is my right to name the team what I would like to name it. Our point is simply that it needs to be a name that is not dehumanizing and racist and denigrating to us. It’s about respect.”
Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, seeks a meeting with both the team and the NFL.
“NCAI looks forward to immediately commencing discussions with the league and team about how they will change the team’s name and mascot, and a prompt timetable for doing so,” Sharp told the Post. “Indian Country deserves nothing less. The time to change is now.”
Coach Ron Rivera has said that he wants the next team name to honor and support Native Americans and the military. Some Native Americans may not want the next name to refer to them as all.
“We don’t want it watered down,” Louis Gray, a member of the Osage Nation and former president of the Tulsa Indian Coalition Against Racism, told the Post. “We just want it gone. Take us out of your team history, because we didn’t belong there in the first place.”
These sentiments dramatically complicate the process for the team. In a separate article, the Post explored the various challenges to moving quickly to change the name of a sports team. Involving Native American leaders and groups makes it even more complicated, if they have varying opinions on the best option for a new name, including whether the new name should refer to Native Americans in any way, shape, or form.
But, frankly, this is part of the debt that Snyder and his organization has accrued by stubbornly refusing to even consider persistent calls to abandon a dictionary-defined racial slur until forced to do so by a sudden change in circumstances and the determination of sponsors who want the name gone and retailers who won’t sell merchandise bearing the name. Businesses from time to time deal with emergencies, and as the rest of the NFL deals with the pandemic, the Washington franchise has a second one to handle.
Or, given the decision of the team’s trio of minority owners to sell their 40-percent stake in the team, a third one.