Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder may have vowed to “NEVER” change the name of his football team, but the head of another organization took a stand against it today. Green Bay Packers chief executive Mark Murphy, who heads the publicly-owned franchise, told a Milwaukee radio station Tuesday that he was “sensitive” to calls to change the name.
“I don’t know if there is any way you can change Redskins,” Murphy said, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “The owner, Dan Snyder, has come out very strong that he will never change the name. But I am sensitive. It’s a name that’s very derogatory to a lot of people.”
Snyder and the NFL have dug in their heels in defending the name during the off-season even as it has drawn more controversy. The name is currently facing a lawsuit seeking to void its federal trademark protections, and members of Congress and the D.C. City Council have called on the team to change it. Darrell Green and Art Monk, two Hall of Famers who played for the Redskins, said the team should at least be open to discussion about a name change if people find it offensive, though both said later that they did not support abandoning the name. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell defended it in June, calling “Redskins” a symbol of “strength, courage, pride, and respect.”
Murphy drew on his experience as the athletic director at Colgate University, where he found himself immersed in controversy about the school’s “Red Raiders” nickname. “At some point in time, there was an Indian mascot. That went away. They kept the Red Raiders name. We studied it long and hard, got a lot of complaints, particularly from faculty on campus. But eventually changed it to just Raiders.”
Changing the name may soon be a decision Snyder is all but forced to make despite his assertions that he won’t. The trademark suit won’t conclude this year, but a previous claim against the Redskins trademark succeeded in 1999 before it was overturned on a technicality in 2003. If the Redskins lose the trademark, Snyder won’t be forced to change the name, but he and the NFL will no longer have exclusive rights to the name, which could cost both the league and the team a substantial amount of money and force Goodell and the league’s hand. Making this sort of change is never easy, but as the trademark case continues to proceed and as prominent people continue to speak out, Snyder’s window to do the right thing before either the law or the NFL forces him to may be starting to close.