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Washington Redskins’ nickname has been under fire for decades – Washington Redskins Blog

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The Washington Redskins‘ nickname has been mired in controversy for decades.

Former team owner Jack Kent Cooke said in 1988: “There is not a single, solitary jot, tittle, whit chance in the world,” that the Redskins change their nickname. “I like the name and it’s not a derogatory name.”

A few years later, protesters picketed against the nickname at the Super Bowl following the 1991 season.

The issue faded in both instances, but every so often, it comes up again. The arc is similar each time: An initial wave of support for a name change, the Redskins holding firm, and finally, waning attention to the issue.

Then came George Floyd’s death on May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police. The protests that followed led to monuments being felled, the Mississippi state flag’s retirement and countless other changes throughout the nation.

Now Washington’s NFL team might become part of that change. It put out a statement Friday saying it was going to “undergo a thorough review of the team name.” It’s the first time under Dan Snyder, who has owned the team since 1999, the franchise has gone to this extent.

Here’s a look at some of the challenges to the Redskins’ nickname over Snyder’s tenure:

Aug. 11, 2006: Suit challenges Redskins trademark

Amanda Blackhorse became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that challenged the trademark of Washington’s nickname, saying it disparaged Native Americans. It was the second time Blackhorse was part of a suit that challenged a trademark that protected the Redskins’ name. The first one, decided in 2005, was unsuccessful.

May 9, 2013: ‘Put it in all caps’

Snyder’s strongest comment on the name happened during the 2013 offseason as focus returned to the topic, perhaps spurred by more winning. Washington was coming off a 10-6 season under rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

During an interview with USA Today, Snyder said, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

Sept. 15, 2013: Protests lasted the season

The Oneida Indian Nation kicked off a season-long protest campaign when Washington played at the Green Bay Packers. The group protested at every road game that season. Perhaps the biggest one occurred in Minnesota before a game vs. the Vikings when hundreds of protesters marched the streets to the stadium.

Several days before the Packers game, Brandon Stevens, an Oneida Nation official, told the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel: “The warrior image is not the image we want to be portrayed.”

Oct. 5, 2013: President Obama weighs in

President Barack Obama stopped short of saying the name should be changed. But he was the latest politician to discuss the matter.

He told The Associated Press: “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”

Obama also said: “I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things. I don’t want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team and rightly so.”

Oct. 10, 2013: Snyder’s letter to fans

Five days later, as pressure mounted on the Redskins, and more protests took place, Snyder wrote to the fan base.

In the letter, which represented his most extensive comments on the controversy, Snyder defended the name by saying: “Our franchise has a great history, tradition and legacy representing our proud alumni and literally tens of millions of loyal fans worldwide. We are proud of our team and the passion of our loyal fans. Our fans sing ‘Hail to the Redskins’ in celebration at every Redskins game. They speak proudly of ‘Redskins Nation’ in honor of a sports team they love.”

Snyder also expanded on what the term “Redskins” means to him: “When I consider the Washington Redskins name, I think of what it stands for. I think of the Washington Redskins traditions and pride I want to share with my three children, just as my father shared with me — and just as you have shared with your family and friends.”

May 22, 2014: 50 Senators sign a letter protesting the name

Fifty senators, all Democrats, signed a letter sent to the NFL saying Washington should change its nickname.

The letter stated: “The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur. We urge the NFL to formally support a name change for the Washington football team. … We urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports.”

The NFL also issued a release to the New York Times defending the name.

“The intent of the team’s name has always been to present a strong, positive and respectful image,” the statement read. “The name is not used by the team or the NFL in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently.”

June 8, 2014: Court rules against Redskins

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled six trademarks held by the Redskins, calling the nickname “disparaging to Native Americans.” It cited a federal law that prevented trademark protection in cases in which the language was offensive or disparaging.

The Redskins appealed the decision.

May 19, 2016: Washington Post poll says 90% of Native Americans not offended

In 2004, the Annenberg Public Policy Center released a poll that said nine out of 10 Native Americans were not bothered by the name. A Washington Post poll 12 years later found similar results.

The Post found that 90% of 504 respondents who identify as Native American were not offended by the name. Seven of 10 did not feel it was disrespectful and eight of 10 said they would not be offended if a non-Native American called them by that name.

June 19, 2017: Supreme Court rules in favor of Washington

The Redskins won a victory when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the law the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office used to prevent the team from registering trademarks using the word “Redskins” was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court stated it was “far-fetched to suggest that the content of a registered mark is government speech, especially given the fact that if trademarks become government speech when they are registered, the Federal Government is babbling prodigiously and incoherently.”

The court cited a case involving an Asian band named The Slants, ruling the name did not violate the First Amendment’s free-speech clause because “Contrary to the Government’s contention, trademarks are private, not government speech.”

May 25, 2020: George Floyd dies

While George Floyd’s death in police custody happened in Minnesota, it set off a chain of events that impacted Washington and beyond. Thousands of people flocked to the streets in cities across the country, protesting police brutality and racism. The country’s focus shifted from the coronavirus pandemic to race relations.

Statues were toppled in many cities and towns over the next month — including that of Washington’s first owner, George Preston Marshall, outside RFK Stadium. The Redskins also removed Marshall’s name from their Ring of Fame. NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from racetracks.

The protests led to another opening for those who opposed the team name, and they mobilized.

July 1, 2020 : Letter to sponsors

On Wednesday, Adweek reported that 87 investors and shareholders, worth a combined $620 billion, sent a letter the previous week to three sponsors — FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo — urging them to support a name change. In the past, groups had protested outside stadiums and tried to change the name through the courts. But this represented a targeted push directed at sponsors.

On the same day Adweek’s story appeared, the Washington Post quoted multiple officials in Washington, D.C., saying the team would not be able to move back to the city unless it changed their name. The Redskins want to build a new stadium after their lease on the land in Landover, Maryland, expires after the 2027 season. They have considered the site where RFK Stadium, their former home, still stands. But because it’s on federal land, the opinions of politicians matter.

“I call on Dan Snyder once again to face that reality, since he does still desperately want to be in the nation’s capital,” Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives, told the Post. “He has got a problem he can’t get around — and he particularly can’t get around it today, after the George Floyd killing.”

July 2, 2020: FedEx statement

One person who knows Snyder well called FedEx CEO Frederick Smith, who owns 10% of the team. The person said Snyder idolized Smith. That’s why it mattered when FedEx released a statement Thursday that read, “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.” Another person who knows Snyder well said he had to have felt “betrayed” by such a statement.

In 1998 — the year before Snyder bought the Redskins — FedEx struck a $205 million, 27-year deal for naming rights to the stadium. In 2014, the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin asked FedEx shareholders to reconsider the naming rights agreement. But shareholders voted to continue the relationship, which ends in 2025. FedEx has not stated if it would sever ties now, but no sponsor has a stronger direct tie to the organization. The statement, multiple people said, was a game-changer.

Nike also released a statement, saying: “We have been talking to the NFL and sharing our concerns regarding the name of the Washington team. We are pleased to see the team taking a first step towards change.”

When searching for Redskins gear on Nike’s website, this is what comes up: “We could not find anything for ‘Redskins.’”

PepsiCo has not released a statement.

July 3, 2020: Redskins statement

The Redskins released a statement late Friday morning. The first two paragraphs packed power:

“In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name. This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.

“Dan Snyder, Owner of the Washington Redskins, stated, ‘This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field.'”

One person who knows Snyder well predicted this was the final step toward eventual change, with the owner trying to see what traditions can be preserved. It’s the most serious the organization has been about the name change.

The team’s statement closed: “We believe this review can and will be conducted with the best interest of all in mind.”

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What constitutes a successful 2020 NFL season for each NFC East team?

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As NFL training camps begin to look more “normal,” with players getting on the field with their teams for the first time on Friday and pads set to come on for the first time on Aug. 17, there seems to be a natural sense of optimism around every team.

Even with the positive thought that every team is undefeated at this point in the season, the NFC East figures to be a two-team race between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. Those franchises have won the division in six of the past seven years and should follow the same path in 2020. The New York Giants and Washington Football Team have new head coaches and are at different places when it comes to their roster building compared to their division counterparts.

With that in mind, NFC East reporters John Keim (Washington), Jordan Raanan (Giants), Tim McManus (Eagles) and Todd Archer (Cowboys) take a look at what would constitute a successful 2020 season for each team.


Dallas Cowboys

Simple — get to the playoffs. There have been previous Cowboys’ seasons that have had “Super Bowl or bust” feelings to them, but considering coach Mike McCarthy did not have a traditional offseason to fully implement his program, the expectations should be dialed back. McCarthy’s résumé is better than any new NFL head coach this season. He went to the playoffs nine times with the Green Bay Packers, a conference title four times and won a Super Bowl. The Cowboys have not made it to an NFC Championship Game or Super Bowl since 1995.

There is talent, especially on offense with quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, wide receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, and offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Zack Martin. There are questions on defense — pass rush and the ability to take the ball away — but the Cowboys might be able to mask some of those issues with a prolific offense.

The Cowboys had similar talent on offense and questions on defense a year ago and missed the playoffs, leading to the hiring of McCarthy. While some might have Super Bowl thoughts, just getting to the tournament is a more proper expectation. — Archer


New York Giants

The Giants are in the midst of a rebuild, even if that is not what they want to call it, and this is effectively Year 2, but with a new head coach.

Coach Joe Judge made it clear throughout the interview process that this would be a process, so the Giants’ success isn’t going to be dictated solely by wins and losses or by making the playoffs. If the Giants go 7-9 or 8-8 and second-year quarterback Daniel Jones makes strides, it would be a significant step in the right direction. If the defense went from being one of the league’s worst to a middle-of-the-road unit, that would be welcomed, as well.

On paper in the NFC East, there are the Cowboys and Eagles on one level. The Giants and Washington fall well below those two, at least talent-wise. All the Giants need to do in order for the 2020 season to be a success is just be competitive in games. They have the worst record of any team in the NFL over the past three seasons (12-36) and have not beaten the Cowboys or Eagles since late in the 2016 season. The bar isn’t especially high; the Giants just need make progress in an unprecedented and unpredictable 2020 season. — Raanan


Philadelphia Eagles

A division title and a playoff win are what it will take for the Eagles to be considered a success in 2020.

The Eagles feel they have a much-improved roster from the one they fielded in a wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks in January. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is healthy, Darius Slay was added to the secondary, they beefed up the defensive front with the Javon Hargrave signing, and spent much of their draft capital on speedy wide receivers, led by 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor. The Eagles hope continuity will carry them a long way as the rest of the division breaks in new coaching staffs under the most unique of circumstances.

There are enough questions around the team to resist the most bullish of predictions: Is Andre Dillard ready to take over left tackle? Can they fill the voids left by safety Malcolm Jenkins and guard Brandon Brooks? Can they generate a steady pass rush off the edge?

Fending off the Cowboys to secure a third NFC title in four years would be another feather in the cap of coach Doug Pederson. But the season will not be a success unless quarterback Carson Wentz gets his first playoff victory. His postseason debut was cut short by a concussion last season, and he missed the playoffs the previous two years because of injury. He needs to finish the 2020 campaign on his own terms, and with at least one playoff win under his belt. — McManus


Washington Football Team

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Washington coach Ron Rivera goes in depth on the culture he wants to instill and his surprise when he learned of the Washington Post article detailing sexual harassment by former members of the organization.

This team will prove a success in 2020 if quarterback Dwayne Haskins develops and the defense shows signs of being a top unit, led by rookie end Chase Young. There are other factors, too, that would make it a successful season: how the offensive line performs, for example.

But this season won’t be about the win-loss record as much as it will be about how the team progresses under first-year coach Ron Rivera. They’re not set up for instant success, not in a year when they had no offseason practices and a shortened summer with no preseason games. Washington knows a slow start could be inevitable, but that a strong finish will be necessary.

If Haskins establishes himself, this team can cross one question off its list. If not, Washington could be searching for another QB in the spring. And if the defense, led by the line, performs, then the team knows it has a young group that could be good for a few years. — Keim

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Colts’ Darius Leonard can’t ignore his critics, and he’s the biggest one – Indianapolis Colts Blog

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard doesn’t hide his obsession with finding out who his critics are.

He’ll examine articles, Twitter, Instagram or any other form of social media.

“I will never shy away from it,” Leonard said. “And I will never stop trying to find it.”

Leonard has been told many times — over and over again — not to pay attention to what is said or written about him. He ignores their advice because criticism fuels him.

All you have to do is look at his specially made cleats if you need proof. The “fourth-best linebacker.” The worst pick in the 2018 draft. The Madden ratings. They’re all written on the cleats.

Leonard also remembers those who said he was too small to play linebacker. How he was “snubbed” from the Pro Bowl team his rookie season and “snubbed” again on the All-Pro first team last season.

“I’m always on Twitter. If someone is making a bad comment about me, that means I’m not doing enough,” Leonard said.

Does the All-Pro linebacker ever block out criticism?

“Never,” he said. “When I get tired on the last rep, I say, ‘One more for the haters. … One more for the haters.'”

This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment idea by Leonard. His agent, Malki Kawa, puts together training-camp care packages for his clients each season. This year’s package was about more than just healthy food. Kawa reached out to the linebacker’s wife and mentioned that he wanted to get his client some special cleats for training camp. Kayla Leonard, who has known her husband since elementary school, gave the idea to the agent about the cleats.

“Then it was about what Darius was going to be put on the cleats,” Kawa said. “The one thing me and him talk about more than anything is how he gets snubbed. It gets disrespectful after a while. That’s the problem.”

Kayla compiled a long list that seems foolish on the surface, considering Leonard has become one of the best linebackers — 284 tackles, 12 sacks and seven interceptions — in just two years in the NFL.

Leonard led the NFL in tackles as a rookie with 163 in 2018. That got him All-Pro honors but didn’t get him to the Pro Bowl. He had 121 tackles with five sacks and five interceptions in just 13 games last season.

What did that get Leonard?

A Pro Bowl spot, only second-team All-Pro honors, but what had him miffed even more was that he wasn’t even mentioned as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

“He takes all that and understands he may never get the recognition he wants, but he keeps track of it and uses that motivation,” Kawa said.

There’s no guarantee Leonard will wear the cleats in a game, even with the extra motivation this season.

“Will I wear them? I don’t know, I might,” Leonard said. “I’m not really a fancy cleat guy. I’m a plain-Jane guy. I don’t know if I’ll wear them. I’ll probably take a picture and put them on my front screen just to keep that motivation.”

Leonard started taking the criticism personally when he was a high school sophomore at Lake View High School in South Carolina. A baseball coach mentioned to him one day after practice that he played with Leonard’s father. The coach told Leonard, “Your dad was good, and your dad was fast. What the hell happened to you?”

“Ever since then, I’m like, ‘I never wanna hear those words again,’” Leonard said.

It wasn’t only in baseball for Leonard, either.

It was on the football field, too, believe it or not. He was told he could be an offensive player, but he’d “never be as good as his brother defensively” due to his size at the time. Anthony Waters, Leonard’s brother, played at Clemson and went on to win a Super Bowl while with the New Orleans Saints.

“I’m not sure he really even needs [more motivation],” Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. “Whether he knows it or not, I think he is pretty self-motivated. He wants to be the best and is obviously extremely talented. It’s kind of like that icing on top when people doubt him; he wants to prove them wrong.”

He was named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018. One article after the draft called his pick “one of the draft’s worst moves” and a “head scratcher,” which is laughable more than two years later.

That’s been the No. 1 criticism that has fueled Leonard since he entered the NFL.

“Ninety-nine percent of the players that I’ve been around are motivated by that stuff — sometimes it gets personal,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “Every now and then, if they feel like the dig goes past, ‘Bad game, bad player,’ and really gets personal, then that’s another level. It fuels their fire because everybody today, in one sense or another, is building their brand, and when something is out there that tarnishes the brand, that’s just going to create conflict and create motivation at some level.

“When I get tired on the last rep, I say, ‘One more for the haters. … One more for the haters.'”

LB Darius Leonard

“There are multiple layers of motivation. That is certainly one of them. I want our players to use it all. Anything that is going to motivate you, go ahead and use it for the good.”

What will Leonard use to motivate himself if he checks everything off his list?

MVP? Super Bowl?

“I have 15 goals that I set so high, there is absolutely no way that I can reach all 15 in one year,” Leonard said. “No way.”

Kawa wouldn’t reveal the entire list because, as he put it, “those are his personal goals.”

Some that are on the list are: Pro Bowl, All-Pro, Defensive Player of the Year, set the tackles record, set the record for sacks for a linebacker, set the forced-fumbles record for linebackers, set the interceptions record for linebackers, have the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense and lead the Colts to a Super Bowl title.

“It’s him shooting for the stars to hope he lands on the moon type of thing,” Kawa said. “He’s literally shooting for the stars. He’s trying to go somewhere no one else has ever gone and he works his ass trying to do it. Darius isn’t keeping a tally on what people are saying. He’s keeping a tally of all the things he’s not accomplished. The goals he sets for himself, he pushing to get them.”

Just know, if you criticize Leonard, he’ll find it and use it as extra motivation.



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Vikings LB Cameron Smith discovers heart condition after positive COVID-19 test

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Vikings linebacker Cameron Smith said he will miss the 2020 NFL season due to a congenital heart condition he only discovered after testing positive for COVID-19.

Smith, a fifth-round pick in 2019, announced Saturday he will have to undergo open-heart surgery to fix a bicuspid aortic valve. It’s a procedure he didn’t realize he needed until he tested positive for the coronavirus and underwent further testing.

“Although this will unfortunately end my 2020 season, it is really a blessing that we found this as my heart is severely enlarged and wouldn’t have lasted much longer,” Smith wrote in an Instagram post.

The linebacker said that the surgery will allow him to continue to play football once healed and that he “didn’t think twice about going with that one.” Smith was a four-year starter at USC where he totaled 354 tackles for the Trojans and earned All-Pac-12 honors in three seasons. He appeared in just five games for the Vikings in his rookie year and notched eight tackles.

Minnesota added linebacker depth on Saturday by signing former Raiders linebacker Quentin Poling. The team waived running back Tony Brooks-James as the corresponding move.



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