Roger Goodell: NFL hears opponents of Washington Redskins’ nickname

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday that the league is “listening” to and is “being respectful” to those who have expressed opposition to the Washington Redskins’ nickname.

But Goodell also said the team has “honored” Native Americans with the use of its nickname, and he cited polling results indicating that most people do not believe the name should be changed.

“I’ve been spending the last year talking to many of the leaders in the Native American communities,” Goodell said at his annual news conference during Super Bowl week. “We are listening. We are trying to make sure we understand the issues. Let me remind you: This is the name of a football team, a football team that’s had that name for 80 years and has presented the name in a way that it has honored Native Americans.”

Some groups have called the name disparaging to Native Americans and have said it should be changed. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and other team officials have said they are not trying to offend anyone and do not plan to change the name.

Goodell was asked during his news conference Friday whether he would use the term “Redskin” to refer to a Native American person to that person’s face. Goodell did not directly answer the question but spoke about the issue.

“We recognize that there are some that don’t agree with the name, and we have listened and respected that,” Goodell said. “But if you look at the numbers, including in the Native American communities — in the Native American community polled, nine out of 10 supported the name. Eight out of 10 Americans in the general population would not like us to change the name. So we are listening. We are being respectful to people who disagree. But let’s not forget this is the name of a football team.”

Cold-weather sites mulled

Goodell also said Friday he knows other cold-weather cities with outdoor stadiums will pursue future Super Bowls, and team owners will assess such possibilities.

Owners have expressed mixed views on the issue of whether a successful New York-area Super Bowl would open the door for other cities with cold winter weather and outdoor stadiums, such as Washington, to be future hosts. Some have said a successful game here could lead to some of those cities being awarded Super Bowls. Others have said they believe this game was awarded to the New York area for reasons exclusive to having the game in New York.

“We see the opportunity for us to continue to expand our game, come into new markets” as potential Super Bowl hosts, Goodell said, pointing out that some cold-weather cities won’t qualify as potential hosts because of other Super Bowl requirements.

Goodell called the New York area a “great stage” for the Super Bowl. He said the league is “doing something innovative and unprecedented” and he called Sunday’s weather forecast “football-ready.” . . .

Goodell said the owners and the league’s competition committee will continue to consider expanding the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams.

Speculation swirls on Rams

In his long-running poker game over the Rams’ future in St. Louis, team owner Stan Kroenke just laid down a new card.

A holding company tied to the billionaire developer bought a football stadium-size piece of ground this month in Los Angeles, where the Rams played from 1946 to 1994, according to sources familiar with the deal.

The 60-acre site, home to a planned but never built Wal-Mart in Inglewood, has long been seen as a potential home for a would-be NFL team.

Whether Kroenke plans to move the Rams, use the site as leverage in his negotiations over improvements to the Edward Jones Dome, turn it into a retail development or simply flip it to a new owner is unclear.

Kroenke, who builds Wal-Mart-anchored shopping centers across the country, could not be reached for comment.

But the news adds a little pressure to state and local officials in St. Louis who are working to keep Kroenke’s Rams in town. A clause in the team’s contract with the Jones Dome requires it be a “first-tier” stadium — in the top eight of 32 NFL stadiums — by 2015. If it’s not, the franchise would be free to leave, or go on a year-to-year lease, by this time next year.

The Rams and local officials have been talking about improvements since 2012, but they have made little headway.

Pele with the Giants?

Pele says the New York Giants invited him to be a kicker after retiring from soccer with the New York Cosmos.

The Brazilian great, 73, says he was asked to join the NFL team after he “did well” in a few tryouts. But he decided not to accept the invitation.

In the interview with ESPN Brasil, Pele did not say exactly when he received the invitation.

Pele, who led Brazil to three World Cup titles, retired from the Cosmos in 1977.

News services contributed to this report.

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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