If you are thinking that the NFL or any other group is going to force the Washington Redskins to change their name, then you really do not know how professional sports works. The league will not put pressure on Washington owner Dan Snyder to change the teams name because it would be bad for the NFL to lose the Redskins brand.
This week, Snyder sent out a letter to the Washington fan base defending the time honored tradition of the Redskins brand. In the letter, he made his case by bringing attention to an Annenberg Public Policy Center poll of 800 Native Americans across 48 states that showed nine out of 10 did not find the name offensive.
He also pointed to an April 2013 Associated Press-GFK poll that found 79 percent of those surveyed said the team should keep its name. Snyder quoted leaders of American Indian tribes in Virginia, who have publicly expressed support for the name in news stories.
Two interesting things happened this week. President Barack Obama told the White House press corps that he would like to see the name changed. The second item was that the NFL agreed to meet with the Oneida Indian Nation. They are the Native American group that has bought air time to bring attention to their issue, and has protested at every one of the team’s away games thus far this year.
But at present, it is not clear who will be part of the meeting or when it will take place. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has steered clear of the controversy and at this week’s NFL owners meetings, he was quoted as saying in a press conference:
“When it is scheduled, we will discuss who will attend and whether it is important for me to meet in the first meeting or the second meeting or some other meeting in the future. I don’t know what the meeting is intended to do … I’m not calling for the meeting. The Oneida Nation is.”
Allow me to translate the commissioner’s answer to the question. I can’t make the Washington football team do anything that they do not want to do no matter if it is in the best interest of the NFL. The Redskins are good business for the NFL and they are not about to change the brand.
Consider this: from April 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013, the top-selling jersey in the entire NFL was the No. 10 burgundy and gold one of Robert Griffin III. He was passed recently by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but despite all of the negative publicity, RGIII’s jersey remains a strong second in national sales.
The Redskins brand is one of the NFL’s strongest with only the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots worth more, according to Forbes Magazine. Washington’s football team is worth an estimated $1.7 billion dollars, marking the fifth straight year the team has ranked in the top-three in Forbes’ most valued NFL franchises.
The Native American lobby has been very successful at getting colleges and universities to change their names, but they have not made a dent in the battle with processional sports teams. The Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins have been targeted many times before without any thought of change.
So this is all up to Mr. Snyder, who is not the most popular owner in sports. However, in his battle to keep the Redskins name, he is actually gaining popularity within his own fan base. There is no way that the NFL will ask him to change the name because like it or not, the Redskins brand is very good for the league — which translates to no name change.