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Are Washington 'Redskins' doomed? NFL's resistance to change showing cracks.

The NFL has agreed to meet with the native American group leading the campaign against the Redskins nickname. The owner of the Washington Redskins is not attending.

By Staff writer / October 8, 2013

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder arrives for the NFL fall meeting in Washington Tuesday.

Carolyn Kaster/AP


Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is appearing increasingly isolated in his vow never to change his team's controversial nickname.

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This week, the National Football League announced that it has scheduled a meeting as soon as next month with the Oneida Indian Nation, the organization that is leading the campaign against the nickname, which it says is racist.

“We respect that people have differing views,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Associated Press. “It is important that we listen to all perspectives.”

The meeting represents a shift. Up to now, the NFL and Mr. Snyder have presented a unified front, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in June calling the nickname "a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect," and reiterating last month that "ultimately, it is Dan [Snyder]'s decision."

But for a league that is hypersensitive about its public image – which avoided any whiff of controversy in its Super Bowl halftime shows for years after the infamous 2004 "wardrobe malfunction" – the negative attention generated by the battle over the Redskins nickname is a serious concern.

The question is: Is the upcoming meeting a sign that the NFL is about to abandon Snyder?

Experts have their doubts.

“In many ways the league is about managing a particular product and a particular experience, so they don’t want to lose the public,” says Richard King, a professor of comparative ethnic studies at Washington State University in Pullman and co-author of “Team Spirits: The Native American Mascot Controversy.”

“But the league is representative of the ownership and that includes [the Redskins]. Unless there are other owners thinking ‘Hey, this is getting bad for our business model,’ I wonder if the NFL has an incentive to change,” he says.

The NFL's invitation is more than what tribal officials have heard from Snyder. Through public statements, he remains steadfast in his refusal to change the name. In May, he told USA Today that the team “will never change the name.” “It’s that simple. NEVER – you can use caps,” he said.

Of course, this is not the first time a sports team, whether collegiate or professional, has received pressure to change nicknames or mascots. But in the collegiate ranks, many of the changes came only after the National Collegiate Athletic Association made it a priority in 2005.


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