NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must like being on the wrong side of history. On the Friday before Super Bowl weekend he again managed to completely dismiss the Oneida Indian Nation and others demanding the Washington Redskins change their dictionary-defined racial slur name.
While avoiding a question about whether he would call a First Nations person a Redskin to his or her face, he said, according to nbcsports.com, “I’ve been spending the last year talking to many leaders in the Native American community. We are listening. This is the name of a football team, a football team that’s had that name for 80 years and presented the name in a way that honors Native Americans. We recognize that there are some that don’t agree with the name, and we listened and respected that.”
Except Goodell didn’t bother to show up when Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter met with NFL brass in New York last year. The Oneida Indian Nation, which leads the national Change the Mascot campaign, responded to Goodell’s remarks with this statement, according to prweb.com:
“It is deeply troubling that with the Super Bowl happening on lands that were once home to Native Americans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would use the event as a platform to insist that the dictionary-defined R-word racial slur against Native Americans is somehow a sign of honor. Commissioner Goodell represents a $9-billion brand with global reach, yet insists that it is somehow no big deal that his league uses those vast resources to promote this slur. In the process, he conveniently ignores all the social science research showing that the NFL’s promotion of this word has serious cultural and psychological effects on native peoples. Worse, he cites the heritage of the team’s name without mentioning that the name was given to the team by one of America’s most famous segregationists, George Preston Marshall. He also somehow doesn’t mention the heritage of the R-word itself, which was as an epithet screamed at Native Americans as they were forced at gunpoint off their lands. The fact that Mr. Goodell doesn’t seem to know any of this – or is deliberately ignoring it – suggests that for all his claims to be listening, he isn’t listening at all.”
But the Washington football team name controversy isn’t the only issue Goodell doesn’t seem to be able to grasp. He must have seen the new poll (huffingtonpost.com) showing that a full 40 percent of Americans would not allow their children to play tackle football because of concussion concerns. President Obama also recently reiterated that if he had a son he would not want him playing football due to head injuries.
Goodell’s NFL, despite making strides in at least acknowledging the connection between concussions and CTE, still is not doing enough to prevent traumatic brain injuries offensive and defensive linemen suffer from the many sub-concussive impacts that go largely unnoticed every single snap in a football game.
And Goodell is clearly in denial about head injuries posing an existential crisis for the game of football. When asked at a 92Y Q&A (via newrepublic.com) in New York recently, he answered no and actually said that concussions do not result from playing football, saying “using the head is not the way it’s designed to be played, The helmet is there for protection, not for a weapon.”
First of all, when nearly half of Americans don’t want their kids playing football, yes it is an existential crisis. Secondly, helmets are still being used as weapons in the NFL, so unless Goodell really decides to change the rules, the concussions and sub-concussions will continue along with CTE and other traumatic brain injuries.
But perhaps the biggest penalty flag directed at Goodell’s NFL is the league’s tax-exempt status. The $9 billion a year industry amazingly enjoys a non-profit status, meaning it doesn’t have to pay federal corporate taxes. Goodell makes nearly $30 million. It is unacceptable that the richest sports league in the world pays no federal taxes while taking advantage of publicly financed stadiums that the taxpayer foots the bill for.
Congress might score a touchdown to end the NFL’s tax-exempt status. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is teaming up with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. to strip the NFL of its tax-exempt status, according to usnews.com.
One of the reasons King decided to take on this issue is Goodell’s astronomical salary.