HERE ARE some things Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred understands but which unfortunately elude his clueless counterpart at the National Football League. That it is meaningless — if not hypocritical — to talk about a commitment to diversity and inclusion when a symbol of your organization denigrates Native Americans. That a real leader doesn’t shy away from getting people to do the difficult — but right — thing. And that history never forgets those who are on its wrong side.
In pressuring the Cleveland Indians to finally jettison the offensive Chief Wahoo, Mr. Manfred sets an example that puts to shame NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and, if he were capable of shame, the owner of Washington’s ill-named football team.
Chief Wahoo’s demise has been seven years in the making. He was first kicked off the team’s road cap, then the home batting helmet, and two years ago was demoted as the team’s primary logo in favor of the block “C” symbol. On Monday, it was announced the controversial red-faced caricature would stop appearing on the team’s uniforms beginning in the 2019 season. We wish the team wouldn’t wait, and we have mixed feelings about the retention of merchandising rights, supposedly to avoid pirated versions. But we appreciate the team’s desire to respect fans still loyal to the longtime logo with a gradual approach.
If the Indians, operating in a struggling market with below-average attendance, are able to do the right thing despite the risk of taking a hit from a small percentage of offended fans, surely a team as rich as Washington’s football team should be able to discard a name that is as insulting of Native Americans as is the grinning and clownish Chief Wahoo. Team owner Dan Snyder has vowed to “never” change the team’s name, taking refuge in the myth that a term one would never use in addressing a Native American is actually a tribute.
Mr. Snyder is enabled by the weak-kneed leadership of Mr. Goodell. Asked Tuesday about whether Cleveland’s decision would prod him to talk more with Mr. Snyder about changing the Washington team’s name, Mr. Goodell demurred: “This issue has been around for several decades, if not longer. . . . I think Dan continues to believe in the name.” Would Mr. Goodell call anyone a “redskin” to his face? We hope not — which makes all his blather about polls and traditions just that, blather.
Mr. Goodell and Mr. Snyder can kid themselves all they want about the harmlessness of a name that is a dictionary-defined racial slur, but Cleveland’s move — echoing decisions by many schools and universities to move away from team names derived from representations of American Indians — shows they are only delaying the inevitable.