NEW ORLEANS -- Regardless of whether it's a big deal in Washington, the issue of the Washington Redskins' controversial team nickname does not appear to be a concern of the NFL's. Commissioner Roger Goodell took a question on the topic from Washington Post columnist Mike Wise during his annual Super Bowl news conference here this morning, and he basically said the fact that fans like the name trumps everything else about the issue.
"Growing up in Washington, I do understand the affinity for that name with the fans," Goodell said. "I also understand the other side of that. I don't think anybody wants to offend anybody. But this has been discussed over a long period of time. I think Dan Snyder and the organization have made it very clear that they are proud of that name and that heritage, and I think the fans are, too."
So, basically the same answer the league gives to so many other questions: We're the NFL, and we don't care.
In truth, Goodell's answer is preposterous. The Redskins' team name is nothing of which to be "proud." It is an epithet with a history of deployment as a tool for derision and prejudice. It makes no logical sense that it wasn't changed decades ago, before its longevity could be used by its defenders as a primary excuse. But what's logical outside the NFL very often gets dismissed as inconsequential by those who run it. It's football, after all, and what's bigger than that these days?
The movement to change the Redskins' name should have more traction and less opposition than it does. The arguments in favor of keeping it are selfish, and the real-word impact of changing it would be negligible. There's not a single fan, player or team owner whose quality of life would be affected in any way if the name were changed. And on the other hand, there is a group of people who would feel considerably better if they were no longer portrayed as someone's mascot.
Respect for fellow human beings is, in truth, far more important than football. But Goodell's answer Friday made it clear that that's not the way the league sees it, and the chances of the Redskins' name being changed any time soon continue to languish in the NFL's warped jungle of priorities.