Ron Rivera found himself in a tough position in a radio interview Monday.
In the middle of a discussion about the NFL’s approach Black Lives Matter movement on Chicago’s 670 The Score, he got asked his thoughts about the controversial nickname of the Washington Redskins, the team that just hired him this offseason.
He mostly deflected.
“I think that’s a discussion for another time,” Rivera said. “I feel a guy that’s my age, my era, that was always a part of football — the name of the Washington Redskins.”
Hosts Dan McNeil and Danny Parkins didn’t let the conversation end there, pressing Rivera on what he meant by “discussion for another time.”
He responded that he preferred to keep football and politics separate.
‘It’s not for me to ... influence people’
“It's all about the moment and the timing," Rivera continued. “But I'm just somebody that's from a different era when football wasn't such a big part of the political scene. That's one of the tough things, too, is I've always wanted to keep that separate.
“People have wanted me to get in politics while I'm coaching, and I keep telling them, 'It's not for me to get up there and influence people.' I have my beliefs, I know what I think, I support the movements, support the players. I believe in what they're doing. There are certain elements to certain things. It's all about the timing and the best time to discuss those things.”
With sports, politics and social issues all intertwined, it’s difficult in 2020 to separate the former from the latter. Especially when the subject is the nickname of a football team long derided as a racial slur.
Renewed calls to change team’s name
With the reckoning in the United States in the aftermath of George Floyd’s homicide has come a closer examination of all issues related to race. Washington’s NFL team has found itself in the spotlight as a result.
Two weeks ago, crews removed the statue of the team’s segregationist founding owner George Preston Marshall from in front of RFK Stadium, the team’s former longtime home in Washington D.C.
On Friday, a Native American group called for players to sit out the season in protest of the name.
“It’s time for the players to rip down that name like it was a statue of a Confederate general in their locker room,” wrote Fawn Sharp, the president of the National Congress of American Indians.
The biggest obstacle to Sharp’s desire becoming reality is the man signing the paychecks in Washington. Team owner Daniel Snyder has long defended the use of the racial slur as the team nickname, resisting calls from Native Americans and as high as the White House to make a change.
It’s evident that it will take more than protests and shifting social tides to convince Snyder to do so.
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