NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that “there are different views” about the Washington Redskins’ name and he believes the league and team must be respectful of that. But Goodell also defended the team’s name as being part of the franchise’s “proud tradition” and history.
“By no means, growing up in Washington and being a Redskins fan, have I ever considered it derogatory as a fan,” Goodell said. “I think that’s how the Redskins fans look at it. The Redskins have always presented it as part of their tradition, their history. ‘Hail to the Redskins’ is part of that proud tradition. But 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. That’s what I suggested and I’ve been open about it that we need to listen and carefully listen and make sure that we’re doing what’s right.”
Asked about President Obama’s comments last week in an interview with the Associated Press that he would consider a name change if he owned the franchise, Goodell said: “I think that’s reflective of exactly what I just said, that there are different views. I don’t speak for the president. … But he is acknowledging that there are different views and that people should listen. People should think clearly about what to do.”
Goodell’s comments came at a news conference at the conclusion of a one-day NFL owners’ meeting Tuesday at a downtown Washington hotel.
Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen did not directly answer a question about Obama’s comments.
“We’re focused on the Cowboy game this week, big rivalry,” Allen said.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder did not speak to reporters as he left the meeting. Other owners declined to comment on the controversy surrounding the Redskins’ name. Several owners and Goodell said the issue was not discussed by the owners during Tuesday’s meeting.
“I don’t have any thoughts on it,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “It did not come up today.”
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said the matter was discussed during a dinner he had Monday night with the league’s lobbyists who are stationed in Washington.
“We had a long dinner last night discussing all issues and certainly that’s been one that’s been on the agenda,” Irsay said. “The president’s comments certainly—when the president speaks, it’s going to raise attention to any issue. But really at this point I don’t really have any comment on it right now. I think the first person to speak on that is going to have to be the commissioner at this point.”
The league has scheduled a meeting for next month with a Native American group that has expressed opposition to the Redskins’ name. Goodell said he is not certain at this point who will participate in that meeting with representatives of the Oneida Indian Nation, which is scheduled for Nov. 22 but potentially could take place sooner.
Asked whether Snyder should be involved in the meeting, Goodell said: “I don’t know what the meeting is intended to do. And I’m not asking for the meeting. I believe the Oneida Nation is asking for the meeting. … It’s not my meeting. I’m not calling for the meeting. So I think they’ll make it clear who they think should be in attendance.”
Goodell said he believes the Redskins are mindful and respectful of opposing views on the issue.
“I am confident that the Redskins are listening,” Goodell said. “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. So I’m very confident they are listening.”
Goodell also said of fans who do not believe the team’s name should be changed: “Fans feel strongly about the name. They feel passionate about it. They think it represents positives and pride and tradition. And there are different views out there. So all of us have to be respectful enough to understand that. We all want to do things to honor people and not to do anything in a negative way.”