Seven years after the Cleveland Indians began de-emphasizing their Chief Wahoo logo, Major League Baseball announced Monday that the team will cease using the controversial caricature on its uniforms beginning in the 2019 season. While the decision puts the spotlight again on franchises that continue to use Native American imagery and nicknames, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday not to expect any change to the Redskins' name in the foreseeable future.
"As you know, this issue has been around for several decades, if not longer," Goodell said on ESPN Radio's "Golic & Wingo" show, when asked whether he's thought any more about talking with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder about changing the name. "I think the interesting thing is Dan Snyder has really worked in the Native American community to understand better their perspective. I think it's reflected mostly in a Washington Post poll that came out [in May 2016] that said over nine out of 10 Native Americans do not take that in a negative fashion, the Redskins' logo or the Redskins' name, and they support it. The focus that we've had is, 'In any way is this insulting to the Native Americans?' and I think that poll is overwhelmingly positive that they don't [find the name offensive]. I think the Redskins have done a tremendous amount of work here and I think Dan continues to believe in the name, and I don't see him changing that perspective."
Snyder has vowed to "never" change the team's nickname, which dates to 1932. A Supreme Court decision last June bolstered the Redskins' legal standing against attempts to cancel its trademark registrations, ruling that the federal government refusing to register trademarks that officials consider disparaging is a violation of the First Amendment.
The 2016 Washington Post poll that Goodell and Snyder have referenced to defend the use of the Redskins nickname was conducted among a random sample of 504 Native American adults. Ninety percent of respondents said they are not bothered by the Redskins name and 73 percent of respondents said they do not find the name disrespectful. Another question in the poll asked, "How much, if at all, are you bothered by the use of Native American imagery in sports?" Seventy-three percent of respondents replied "not at all," while 26 percent replied "not too much," a "good amount" or a "great deal."
Mike Golic asked Goodell on Tuesday if the NFL office continues to hear from people about the Redskins' nickname and if the league would ever pressure Snyder to make a change.
"I think you start from the position of what the reaction is from the Native Americans," said Goodell, who has defended the Redskins' nickname in the past. "As I said, that's overwhelmingly positive about it. Second, I think you obviously ask Dan to listen and make sure you understand what the fans are saying, which he has, we have. We don't hear this very much from our fans, but we understand there are different perspectives on this. We're sensitive to that and understand it and we make sure we do whatever we can to make sure we're presenting all of our teams in a positive fashion."
The Redskins declined to comment about MLB's announcement on Monday. Meanwhile, Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter issued a statement on behalf of the Change the Mascot campaign.
"The Cleveland baseball team has rightly recognized that Native Americans do not deserve to be denigrated as cartoon mascots, and the team's move is a reflection of a grassroots movement that has pressed sports franchises to respect Native people," Halbritter said.
"Cleveland's decision should finally compel the Washington football team to make the same honorable decision. For too long, people of color have been stereotyped with these kinds of hurtful symbols — and no symbol is more hurtful than the football team in the nation's capital using a dictionary-defined racial slur as its team name. Washington Owner Dan Snyder needs to look at Cleveland's move and then look in the mirror and ask whether he wants to be forever known as the most famous purveyor of bigotry in modern sports, or if he wants to finally stand on the right side of history and change his team's name. We hope he chooses the latter."