Over the next few days, and in the spirit of a Presidential election year, NBC Sports Washington is polling ex-Redskins players and NFLers who grew up in the DMV for their thoughts on the burgundy-and-gold's pending name change - and what name THEY would like to see.
The Redskins’ decision to conduct a “thorough review” of their name is one of the many ripple effects from the nationwide George Floyd protests that have taken place over the past six weeks. The demonstrations have put discussions surrounding racial equality at the forefront of the country’s attention and signaled a change in the way race relations are approached.
Among those who’ve recognized the shifting of the times is former Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss, who spoke to NBC Sports Washington about owner Dan Snyder changing his position from staunch opponent of a name change to open to discussing new avenues.
“I just feel like the times we’re in right now, it’s only right,” Moss said. “If they have to change the name, I think now is the perfect time because of what’s been going on in this world today. You just don’t want to be dealing with anything that’s causing people to have an ill feeling about the representation of their race and their ethnic background.”
Moss was traded to the Redskins by the New York Jets in 2005 and spent the rest of his career there before retiring after the 2014 season. In total, he played 146 games for Washington in which he caught 581 passes for 7,867 yards and 47 touchdowns while racking up three 1,000-yard seasons and a Pro Bowl appearance.
However, it would be years into his D.C. tenure before Moss realized there was a controversy surrounding the name.
“I discovered it was a problem after getting ready for a game against the Seahawks in Seattle when they protested outside of our bus about the name,” Moss said. “That was my first time even knowing that it wasn’t representing them the way they want to be represented. So from that time to now, I’ve been trying to educate myself as best I could to find out why.”
The debate over the Redskins’ name has been on and off since the early 1970s, when a group of Washington-based journalists were among the first to call for the name to be retired. The discussion has flared occasionally in recent years, especially after some strong comments from Snyder captured the country’s attention in 2013.
In an interview with USA TODAY in May of 2013, Snyder said, "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER—you can use caps." Four months later, the Oneida Indian Nation based out of New York organized season-long protests outside of every Redskins road game. The opponents’ case slowly built up momentum again until The Washington Post conducted a poll in 2016 that found nine out of 10 Native Americans weren’t offended by the name.
Moss acknowledged that the Native American community still appears to be split on whether or not the name is offensive. Though he said he didn’t feel particularly strongly that the name should be changed, he deferred to Native Americans who are impacted by the name and want to ensure their race is represented in a way that accurately reflects them.
“Being a guy that had represented that team throughout my playing years and my 10 years there, I have tremendous pride about putting on that helmet,” Moss said. “Now, if I have to go back and look at it and say, ‘Well man, there was something not right about it,’ then I probably would’ve felt different, too, also during those years.
“But I didn’t. All I knew was this was the Washington Redskins and every Sunday or every year I put this uniform on and go out and represent the Washington-based football team to the best of my ability.”
With the Redskins’ name change appearing imminent, fans have already begun tossing out suggestions for what the new name should be. Moss said he’s seen them all—including Redtails, which would pay homage to Black fighter pilots from World War II—but he’s on board with an idea he said Snyder is already considering.
“To tell you the truth, the thing that stood out to me the most is—I’m not sure how for sure it is—but I’ve heard that Dan Snyder wants to try to keep the same color scheme and some kind of way pay homage to the Native Americans and find a name that’s suitable for them,” Moss said. “So if that’s for real, I’m for that, man.”
As the situation continues to unfold, Moss will be paying close attention. While he understands many fans are opposed to changing the name given its history in D.C., he believes the final decision belongs to those the name represents.
“You can’t be insensitive about the situation,” Moss said. “We have to know that regardless of what [fans] feel with season tickets and all that, there’s people that really have to [grapple] with what they’ve been holding on and haunted by for so long. It’s more than just a football team to them.”
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