A week after NBA commissioner Adam Silver decided to ban Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life over racist comments Sterling made on an audio recording, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman told Time Magazine that he has little confidence that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would have done the same thing.
The reason why? Sherman, fresh off signing a contract that made him the highest-paid defensive back in the league, said his lack of confidence stemmed from the fact that Goodell hasn’t taken action on another racial issue confronting the league: the name of the Washington Redskins.
Asked if Goodell would have banned an owner for life, Sherman told Time: “No I don’t. Because we have an NFL team called the Redskins. I don’t think the NFL really is as concerned as they show. The NFL is more of a bottom line league. If it doesn’t effect their bottom line, they’re not as concerned.”
He went on to say that he hoped Sterling’s racism would help the conversation about whether Washington should change its name.
“I would hope it would help,” Sherman said. “It’d help re-initiate the conversation. And at least there would be another discussion. You know, I think the discussion has stopped. And the public has just accepted it. And I think there should be more conversations. But it is what it is.”
Sherman isn’t the first to link the two issues. Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Indian Nation, the group that led a public campaign against the name throughout the 2013 season, did so in a statement praising Silver and calling on Goodell to act shortly after the NBA commissioner announced his decision. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) did the same in a floor speech last week; Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson (D) also suggested the name should be changed over the weekend. Two former NFL players — Jason Taylor and John Ritchie — also said the name should change if Native Americans find it offensive, and former Washington linebacker London Fletcher said he started feeling “a little uneasy” about it late in his career. Tuesday, four New York lawmakers introduced a resolution calling on pro sports teams to stop using racist Native American names.
But Sherman is more significant than any of them, if only because he’s a current player. And unlike DeAngelo Hall, the former Washington defensive back who criticized the name last year, Sherman is rapidly emerging as one of the faces of the NFL.
Halbritter and the Oneida Nation praised Sherman in a statement Thursday morning.
“Throughout American history, athletes who have been willing to use their public platform to demand justice have played a critical role in the fight for equality, and Richard Sherman is continuing that tradition,” Halbritter said in the statement. “By courageously standing up to the league on behalf of the fight for equality and mutual respect, Richard Sherman has not only honored the courage of all the athletes before him who fought for civil rights, he also has sent a powerful wake-up call to the NFL. Right now, NFL players are being forced to be a part of an enterprise that insists on profiting off of the promotion of a dictionary-defined racial slur. Richard Sherman has let every player in the NFL know that they don’t have to be silent – they have a right to stand up and say that professional sports should not be marketing and promoting racial slurs.”