NFL and Roger Goodell Can Prove Commitment to Racial Justice by Forcing Washington Redskins Name Change

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at a press conference.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at a press conference. | Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Roger Goodell made a powerful statement condemning racism and expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement after the wrongful killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. His words were needed, but the NFL needs to back them up with actions.

And they need to start with the Washington football team.

There have been multiple movements over the past decade to change the name of the Redskins, a derogatory term for Native Americans. They also use a Native American image as their logo, and some fans are known to appropriate Native American cultural items like headdresses on game day. It is a racist practice, plain and simple -- and this is a perfect moment for the team to make a change.

Racist symbols have been eliminated throughout the country in the past several weeks at long last, from Confederate monuments to brand logos based on harmful stereotypes. The time is right for the NFL to get rid of their own shameful symbol as well.

There is no reason that Washington needs to continue using a racial slur as a nickname if a maple syrup brand can recognize that Aunt Jemima is problematic, period.

Washington isn't the only team mocking Native Americans with its brand. The Kansas City Chiefs are also known to appropriate headdresses and war paint, and fans perform the insulting Tomahawk Chop as a celebration (in baseball, the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves have their own issues to deal with related to appropriation and problematic imagery).

The NFL has been clear that they stand against racism and discrimination, but that is hypocritical as long as these racist symbols are allowed in the league.

Washington owner Daniel Snyder has made it clear that he has no intention of changing the team's name or imagery, so it's up to Goodell and the rest of the NFL's owners to force his hand. Goodell has a golden opportunity to prove that there is no room for this offensive name and logo in sports. It's simply up to him to seize that chance.