WASHINGTON — Asked directly whether the Washington Redskins should change their name, Roger Goodell said the NFL needs to “make sure we’re doing what’s right.”
Speaking at the conclusion of the league’s fall meetings Tuesday, the commissioner noted that he grew up in the Washington area rooting for the city’s football team and “by no means … have I ever considered it derogatory as a fan, and I think that’s how Redskins fans would look at it.”
The topic was not part of the formal agenda for the meetings — Goodell said “there may have been discussions between some of the owners, but not on the floor” — and yet it was the subject of four of the first five questions posed at his news conference at a Washington hotel.
“Whenever you have a situation like this, you have to listen and recognize that some other people may have different perspectives, and clearly there are cases where that’s true here,” Goodell said. “And that’s what I’ve suggested and I’ve been open about — that we need to listen, carefully listen, and make sure we’re doing what’s right.”
Asked whether Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who has vowed that he’ll never change the club’s name, has been listening, Goodell said: “I am confident that the Redskins are listening and I’m confident that they’re sensitive to their fans — to the views of people that are not only their fans but are not their fans.”
Snyder did not speak to reporters on his way out of the daylong meetings. General manager Bruce Allen deflected a question about the team’s name before walking away, saying, “We’re focused on the Cowboy game this week. Big rivalry.”
President Barack Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press last week that he would “think about changing” the name if he were the team’s owner.
“When the President speaks, it’s going to raise attention to any issue,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said Tuesday, “but really I, at this point, don’t really have anything, any comment, on it right now.”
Asked his opinion on the Redskins name, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said: “I don’t have any thoughts on it.”
The NFL has said it will meet with an Indian tribe pushing for the Redskins to drop the nickname, although Goodell said he did not know if he or Snyder would attend.
That group, the Oneida Indian Nation, held a symposium on the topic in Washington on Monday, timed to coincide with the league meetings.
At Monday’s session, a member of Congress, Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum, said the league and team are “promoting a racial slur” and “this issue is not going away.”
After Goodell’s news conference Tuesday, a spokesman for the Oneida Indian Nation, Joel Barkin, issued a statement that read, in part: “The fact is that the league will not truly be listening to critics of this racial slur unless its commissioner gets personally involved.”
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press