Roger Goodell has decided to stand on the wrong side of history.
Following the State of the NFL address on Friday in New York City, Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, defended the use of the racially insensitive R-word as the name of Washington, D.C.’s NFL team.
In his remarks, the commissioner said that the name “honors” Native Americans and that “the vast majority of Americans in general and Native Americans in particular support the franchise keeping the nickname.”
“Let me remind you that this is a name of a football team, a football team that has had that name for eighty years and has presented the name in a way that has honored Native Americans,” Roger Goodell said at the pre-Super Bowl press conference. “We recognize that there are some that don’t agree with the name and we have listened and respected that. But if you look at the numbers, including in Native American communities, in a Native American community poll, nine out of ten supported the name.”
Ray Halbritter, CEO and Representative of the Oneida Indian Nation, addressed Goodell’s remarks in a press release.
“It is deeply troubling that with the Super Bowl happening on lands that were once home to Native Americans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would use the event as a platform to insist that the dictionary-defined R-word racial slur against Native Americans is somehow a sign of honor,” Halbritter said.
“Commissioner Goodell represents a $9-billion brand with global reach, yet insists that it is somehow no big deal that his league uses those vast resources to promote this slur,” Halbritter said. “In the process, he conveniently ignores all the social science research showing that the NFL's promotion of this word has serious cultural and psychological effects on native peoples. Worse, he cites the heritage of the team’s name without mentioning that the name was given to the team by one of America’s most famous segregationists, George Preston Marshall. He also somehow doesn’t mention the heritage of the R-word itself, which was as an epithet screamed at Native Americans as they were forced at gunpoint off their lands.”
“The fact that Mr. Goodell doesn’t seem to know any of this – or is deliberately ignoring it – suggests that for all his claims to be listening, he isn’t listening at all," Halbritter said.
In an interview with a Washington, D.C. radio station last September, Goodell said of the Redskins name, “If one person is offended, we have to listen."