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NFL is ‘listening’ to those who oppose Redskins’ name, Roger Goodell says

Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference Friday.  (Getty Images/Jeff Gross)

NEW YORK — 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 they 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.”

In October, NFL officials met with representatives of the Oneida Indian Nation, which has expressed opposition to the team’s name.

Goodell’s latest comments on the topic came one day after DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said it is appropriate for the sport’s leaders to have “a broad discussion” with interested parties about the team’s name.

“I grew up a Redskin fan and I grew up in Washington,” Smith told a Washington Post reporter Thursday after the union’s annual Super Bowl news conference. “And as we’ve said before, I think we’re in a better world if we’re not intentionally offending anyone. I think that any time we engage in a broad discussion, whether it be with fans or other interested parties about how to do our jobs better, and that might include the Redskin name, I think that’s positive.”