Even if he remains in Washington for his entire NFL career, Robert Griffin III is not going to retire an R-word.
It’s not a matter of “if” anymore, but rather “when.”
The debate over whether a people are denigrated or honored by the name of the Washington NFL team, like the absurd debate over whether the name is a unifying force, is over.
How many of the more than 5 million American Indians in this country actually want the name gone — how many need to be offended — is approaching irrelevant.
We’re quickly moving past all that.
The question is how long before Roger Goodell or any of the NFL commissioner’s brightest lawyers deem that a prolonged public assault against the name becomes financially hazardous to the league’s future. Just when is the tipping point?
The answer, we found out Monday, is now.
League officials have reached out to the Oneida Nation, which sponsored Monday’s symposium and suddenly has been passed the name-change baton from Suzan Shown Harjo after more than two decades.
The NFL, through Adolphus Birch, its senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs, has asked that a meeting originally scheduled for Nov. 22 be moved up — and, if needed, to the Oneida reservation in Verona, N.Y.
Think about that: The NFL, which has spent tens of thousands of dollars defending the team from American Indian plantiffs seeking to strip its trademark in court for the better part of two decades, has offered to go to the res to talk.
Tiring of the sustained momentum the issue has gained since the beginning of the year, including a national radio ad campaign denouncing the team’s name in each city it plays — tired of the widespread publicity, which runs the gamut from the Indian Country Today media network to NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Goodell has sent an emissary to act on his behalf.
The commissioner and others also may be tired of team owner Daniel Snyder’s cold brazenness toward the offended. They simply can’t take his tone-deafness on the issue anymore; it’s bad business.
If the NFL is as boxed in as it appears and Birch and others from the league office aren’t going on a patronizing P.R. mission, this is the first step in the matter being taken out of Snyder’s hands — the first clear indication that the name is eventually going down.
I thought this past winter it might happen within 10 years. My guess now is five years or less, maybe three — and that’s just to accommodate the time it will take to reach a settlement with the team, find a new name and license, market and promote it.