“Have you thought about what it’s like to play for a team that’s named the Redskins?” I asked. “Because a lot of American Indians and others feel that’s a derogatory term.”
“I’m not qualified to speak on that,” Griffin said. “I didn’t even mean to stir up the other thing, so I’m not going to touch that one.”
I apologized to him privately about a week later — not for the question but for having to ask it in a group forum. Neither Griffin’s representatives nor the team allow one-on-one interviews with him, and most concessions center on the quarterback promoting a product he endorses. I fear that a genuine 22-year-old will become an automaton by 30, his every word scripted to avoid controversy.
I’d wanted to go further. I’d wanted to ask Griffin if he would be okay with playing for a team called the “Washington Blackskins” featuring a proud portrait of a Zulu warrior on its helmets.
My guess is he would say no. Not because he’s black — Griffin has said that he doesn’t want to be put in “a box with other African American quarterbacks.” I just figure that, as a good, decent inhabitant of the planet, he would respect the groundswell of offended people who don’t want to cheer for a team that enshrines America’s persecution of its indigenous people.
Change isn’t coming on its own. Snyder won’t even entertain the conversation. The only way he can feel pain is to be hit in the pocketbook. And the only person who can hit Snyder in the pocketbook is a vocal star who plays for his team and insists on change.
It was smart for Griffin — a guy who says all the right things — to duck my question. It was smarter than what Clinton Portis told me years ago after a practice: “Hey, they used to call it the Negro Leagues back in the day. We didn’t like it, but we had to take it. Now the Indians have to take it.”
Most frustrating, I know that all it would take is one young, prominent athlete with a game for the new millennium and a social conscience for the 1960s. Black. White. Hispanic. Asian. Heck, even American Indian — although St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford, who is one-sixteenth Cherokee and listed on the Cherokee Nation’s tribal rolls, has yet to take a position.
Funny, pros love to talk about fortitude and guts. Consider Griffin’s tweet this past week after the team was criticized for letting him play on a gimpy knee: “Many may question, criticize & think they have all the right answers. But few have been in the line of fire in battle.”
But what about the real-life courage of Ali, Brown, Ashe and Flood? They didn’t care about the consequences. They just knew it was right.
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