During a virtual news conference in early June, Washington Redskins Coach Ron Rivera condemned the death of George Floyd while in police custody and committed to supporting players who kneel during the national anthem this season to protest racial injustice. He emphasized the need for actionable change and reflected on the team-wide Zoom call he helped organize, which gave him a chance to listen and his players the opportunity to be heard.
Rivera reiterated his commitment to taking action — “The time for doing is now,” he said — during a radio interview Monday, but not with respect to his team’s name, which has come under renewed scrutiny amid the racial reckoning taking place throughout the country.
“Given all these conversations you’re having with your football team,” Rivera was asked during an appearance on the “McNeil & Parkins Show” on Chicago’s 670 the Score, “do you think your football team’s name should change?”
“I think that’s a discussion for another time,” Rivera said in his first public comments about the name, which the dictionary defines as a racial slur. “I feel a guy that’s my age, my era, you know, that was always part of football, the name of the Washington Redskins.”
A host then asked Rivera, who played nine seasons as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears from 1984 to 1992, to clarify what he meant by “another time.” After all, the monument to founding owner George Preston Marshall, a segregationist, was removed from the grounds outside RFK Stadium this month, and the team renamed the lower bowl at FedEx Field, formerly called the George Preston Marshall Level, in honor of Bobby Mitchell.
Regarding the name, which owner Daniel Snyder has vowed to never change, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) recently said it was “past time for the team to deal with what offends so many people.”
“I think it’s all about the moment and the timing,” Rivera said. “But I’m just somebody that’s from a different era, when football wasn’t such a big part of the political scene. That’s one of the tough things for me, too, is I’ve always wanted to try to keep that separate. People have wanted me to get involved in politics while I was coaching, and I kept telling them, ‘It’s not for me to get up there and influence people.’ I have my beliefs. I know what I think. I support the movements, support the players. I believe in what they’re doing. Again, I think there are certain elements to certain things that’s all about the timing and the best time to discuss those things.”
Rivera said Monday one of his favorite sayings in life is “help me understand so that I may be understood.” He was later asked if he would “at least listen to the argument” in favor of changing the name when the appropriate times comes.
“I’ll just say this,” Rivera said. “I’ve done a lot of research on a lot of things that I do. I don’t go into any conversations not prepared.”
Rivera was also asked about his former quarterback with the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton, who agreed to a one-year, incentive-laden contract with the New England Patriots on Sunday. Rivera said he would have been comfortable signing the 31-year-old, who has been limited by injuries the past two seasons, if Washington weren’t already committed to developing second-year pro Dwayne Haskins.
“Until we get that opportunity to know what we have [in Haskins], it would be very hard to bring a guy in who’s had such a solid career, who was a league MVP at one time, and expect the young guy to get a chance to grow,” Rivera said. “I just felt that because of our circumstances, we could play this slow. Good for him. He went to New England, which I think is going to be a great spot for him, and he’s going to have a lot of success.”
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