RGIII Is the Redskins Quarterback , Not the Media's Agent for Cultural Change

Dan Levy@danlevythinksNational Lead WriterFebruary 11, 2013

Robert Griffin III carried himself with such poise and maturity during the 2012 NFL season, it was easy to forget the dynamic quarterback was just a rookie. 

After his first season, in which he led the Redskins to the NFC East division title, Griffin has the challenge of rehabilitating a knee injury that could hamper his development from standout rookie to bona fide franchise savior. The kid doesn't need any more pressure. 

It's true that Griffin was more than just a standout rookie, bordering on savior before ever taking a snap in Washington. Before last year's draft, RGIII became somewhat of a cult hero in our nation's capital after it was made clear the franchise had traded up to get him.

During the season, as his potential began to manifest, Griffin's lore grew exponentially as he led the Redskins to seven straight wins and the division crown. 

His present status in D.C. has never been higher, which led one national pundit to suggest the quarterback should use that status to elicit cultural change. 

Mike Florio, NBC's resident NFL rumor monger at Pro Football Talk, wrote about RGIII on Saturday, suggesting the dynamic quarterback has the stroke to get Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the nickname of his team.

The name should change.  And there’s likely only one way it will change, at any point in the next 10-15 years.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III needs to stand up and demand that it change.

Florio addressed the topic after Washington Post columnist Mike Wise re-opened discussion of changing the Redskins name in January, asking Roger Goodell about a potential move during the NFL's State of the League press conference.

Wise then spoke last week at an event at the National Museum of the American Indian, prompting Florio to call attention to RGIII's perceived responsibility in the process.

After awkwardly imposing Michael Jordan's name to remind readers that superstar athletes often stay out of political conversations, Florio doubled down on the pressure for RGIII to become an agent of change.

But Griffin has a unique opportunity.  There’s no real downside to requesting that the Redskins change their name.  Few truly believe in their hearts the name isn’t offensive.  Instead, fans of the team resist changing the name because, for them, the term taps directly into their football loyalties.  With Griffin becoming the player to whom those loyalties most fervently now trace, he’s the only one who can make it happen.

Here’s hoping Griffin does the right thing, since Griffin could be the only man to persuade Snyder to follow suit.

Let's leave aside the moral hand-wringing for a second. Truthfully, I agree with both Wise and Florio that Redskins is a horribly offensive term and would welcome a change.

However, the assertion that Griffin is able to facilitate this change, going so far as to suggest he's the "only one who can make it happen" is not only myopic, it's patently irresponsible.

Florio fails to understand or acknowledge that the "only ones" who can make the Redskins change their name are the fans. If the fans stop buying merchandise with the offensive Redskins logo, the team will have a serious revenue stream dry up, necessitating the need for change.

This isn't a suggestion for fans to boycott the team until they change the name. Rather, it's a thought that if the fans of Washington, D.C.'s professional football team cared about being associated with a racist nickname, they should stop purchasing jerseys, shirts, hats, jackets and decorations with the logo proudly adorned.

The fans have the ability to elicit change. The quarterback needs to worry about doing his job.

To that point, suggesting Griffin put pressure on his owner to change the name of the franchise that drafted him exhibits a gross misunderstanding of the way the NFL is run.

Florio is a lot of things, but he's not stupid. He knows the league doesn't work that way and surely understands that Griffin has neither the ability nor authority to demand such a change from his boss.

Maybe if RGIII were a 10-year veteran and a sure-fire Hall of Famer who had been with the franchise for his entire career, he might have the stroke to do it. Maybe if he played in the NBA, where the players have far more power to elicit change than any other professional American sport, he could get something like this done.

A rookie? In the NFL? Florio's article was a troll post to the highest order. (By the way, he got me and many others to bite, to the point he followed up on the story with another post on Monday.)

The fact that Griffin has become a leader within the Redskins locker room and a public face of the organization should mean a lot to the community. It should not, however, lead national pundits to suggest he publicly admonish his boss for the name of their franchise.

As well as he played last season, RGIII was still an oft-injured rookie with a viable backup waiting for a chance to take over. The kid needs to worry about getting healthy and fighting to become strong enough to keep his job, not taking on a public battle to change something his boss has made clear he has little interest in changing.

If pressure from Native American communities, fans or local and national media haven't changed Snyder's stance on the name of the team, why would a player entering his second season in the NFL—leader, cultural icon or otherwise—decide that now is a good time to take on this crusade? Because he's the only one who can do it? Please.

Again, I agree the name (and particularly logo) is offensive, but Florio is doing exactly what the media is supposed to avoid: projecting his morality onto a player to demand that player takes up his cause.

Look, it's our job to be the watchdogs of the sports we cover, and sometimes, that stretches beyond the field to ethical, moral and cultural gray areas.

But let's not pretend this is the same thing as chiding 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver for his anti-gay comments. This is equal to calling out Colin Kaepernick for not chiding Culliver for his comments. That wouldn't be fair to him, nor is this fair to Griffin.

Of course, Florio's remarks also leave one to wonder if he is suggesting that after 80 years of using the name Redskins, RGIII should take a stand because the logo is racist toward Native Americans. After all, as an African-American, RGIII should be more sensitive to racial issues within his franchise than previous Redskin quarterbacks.

Perhaps it's not the racial angle at all, and it simply speaks more to Griffin's status within the Washington community. Mark Rypien, for instance, never had the cultural status that RGIII commands around town.

So if it's not the minority connection and it's more the social status situation, why stop with just changing the name of a football team? Why not pressure him to make some real change in Washington?

Dear RGIII: You are a star in our nation's capital because you excel at football and you have a great smile and an ebullient personality. After you get the Redskins to change their name, can you please balance the budget, fix Congress and persuade the country to come together on this gun-control situation? Also, can you beg Subway to stop trying to make America care about Jared?

To some, you're the only one who can make it happen. No pressure, kid.


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