NFL Commissioner Endorsing Heckler’s Veto Over Redskins Name?
Should one person being "offended" by more important than a vast majority who are not?
The seemingly endless controversy over the fact that the Washington Redskins call themselves, well, the Redskins seems to be all the rage in sports media these days. Several news outlets such as Slate, along with sports reporters such as Christine Brennan, have announced the rather silly notion that they will no longer use the team name in their reporting, and certain activists have renewed their seemingly quixotic efforts to force team owner Dan Snyder to change the name, something that he’s said more than once that he’d never do. Now, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has chimed in on the controversy in a way that doesn’t exactly sound supportive of one of his leagues most storied franchises:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has changed his tenor slightly since telling ten members of Congress in June the ‘Redskins’ nickname is a “unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”
In an interview with Lavar Arrington and Chad Dukes on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday, Goodell emphasized the importance of both honoring tradition, as well as listening to fans of differing points of view, with regards to the largely debated team name.
“Well as you guys know, I grew up in Washington, so the Colts were my team early on and then I became a Redskins fan,” Goodell told Lavar and Dukes. “I know the team name is part of their history and tradition, and that’s something that’s important to the Redskins fans.”
“I think what we have to do though is we have to listen,” Goodell said. “If one person is offended, we have to listen.”
Goodell was asked specifically if the decision to either change or keep the ‘Redskins’ nickname will remain in the hands of team owner Daniel Snyder, who told The USA Today in June “We’ll never change the name. It’s simple. NEVER.”
“Ultimately it is Dan’s decision,” Goodell specified. “But it’s something that I want all of us to go out and make sure we’re listening to our fans, listening to people of a different view, and making sure that we continue to do what’s right to make sure that team represents the strong tradition and history that it has for so many years.”
While the activists who are campaigning against the name have been loud for many years now, there’s absolutely no sign that the public as a whole is nearly as bothered by the team name. One recent poll showed nearly 80% of those responding as supporting the idea that the Redskins should be able to keep their team name. So what, exactly, is it that Goodell is advocating here? Is he saying that the will of the 20% should prevail? Is he saying that the opinion of someone who claims to be “offended” is more important than the opinion of a vast majority that essentially says they really don’t care about the issue?
Whichever way you interpret Goodell’s statement, though, it seems apparent that in his effort as the head of a league that tries very hard to be all things to all people, he’s endorsing the idea of the heckler’s veto, that the person with the loudest voice should be able to shout down the speech and expression of others simply because their voice is louder. In the end, that’s a profoundly dangerous position to take because it only ends up creating an incentive for the perpetually outraged to push the envelope is further. One guy is offended by the name “Redskins,” another guy is offended by scantily clad cheerleaders on the sidelines. Where, exactly, does it end. In the end, whether or not the Redskins ever someday change their name is a business decision. If Dan Snyder, or whomever might own the team in the future, decides that its in the business interests of the franchise to change the name, then they’ll eventually do it and that will be their right. Until then, we shouldn’t be letting the heckler’s win the argument.