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Will Sterling lifetime ban push Redskins issue to critical mass?


In the immediate aftermath of the release of Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s private racist rant, a former NFL team executive suggested that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder likely welcomes the distraction from the ongoing scrutiny of his team’s public and -- in the opinion of some -- racist team name.

The situations, on the surface, are inherently different. But as the NBA demonstrates that it has no tolerance for racially inappropriate comments made behind closed doors, the NFL continues to deal with a potentially racist team name hiding in plain view.

To no surprise, Oneida Indian Nation opted to use the penalties imposed on Sterling as a reason to draw more attention to the lingering controversy involving the Redskins name.

“In banning Clippers owner Donald Sterling, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and other NBA team owners have taken a courageous stand against racism in professional sports, acknowledging that professional leagues cannot be a platform to promote bigotry,” Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in a release. “In taking such appropriate disciplinary action, the NBA has shown leagues like the NFL that they have a moral responsibility to take disciplinary action against people like Dan Snyder, who also continues to proudly promote bigotry with the use of a dictionary-defined racial slur as his team’s name.”

While it’s unlikely that the Sterling situation will nudge the Redskins name controversy toward a critical mass, the unwillingness of the NBA to tolerate an owner expressing racist views behind closed doors highlights the question of whether and to what extent the NFL is willing to tolerate a situation where reasonable minds may differ on the existence of overt racism.

On one hand, the NFL is the ultimate reality show; having a year-to-year subplot regarding the potential change of the name of a team ultimately generates interest and discussion. On the other hand, the subject of that debate arguably doesn’t reflect well on the NFL, which eventually may have to explain why it allowed the debate to linger for as long as it did.