It might be time for Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to phone Cardinal Gibbons athletic director Mike Morrill.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday leveled the biggest blow against Snyder’s refusal to change the Washington Redskins nickname with its cancellation of the team’s trademark.
But way before Snyder took a staunch stance against a possible nickname change, Morrill, Gibbons’ 15-year football coach, was front and center in changing the school’s nickname from Redskins to Chiefs in 2006.
Unlike in Washington, where Snyder has come under fire from Native American organizations, senators and some segments of the general public, Morrill, who was assistant athletic director in 2006, said the consensus decision by the Gibbons administration came without pressure from any single entity or outside organization.
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“We had discussed it for years and just thought the time was right,” Morrill said. “It came down to, if we were offending anybody, or even worse a group of people, then why wouldn’t we change it? The Chiefs moniker kind of struck with the mold of honoring Native Americans but not offending anybody. The kids are proud Chiefs now and love yelling it.”
Morrill said giving the Gibbons student section a vote in what that new nickname would be was paramount to the transition going smoothly.
It’s a far different story in Washington, where the trademark cancellation has given critics of the Redskins’ moniker and its supposed racist undertones a big win in the court of public opinion.
The irony of how the NFL franchise, to this point, and Cardinal Gibbons have dealt with a Redskins moniker in polar opposite ways is not lost on Morrill. He drew a similar comparison to the controversy of flying the Confederate flag on state and government buildings.
Morrill said Snyder should adhere to the wishes of the multitude of Native American leaders voicing their objection to the Redskins moniker, including the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, which aired a riveting ad during the NBA Finals, and change the team’s nickname.
“I know Dan Snyder has met with several Native American groups,” Morrill said. “But it appears he is going into these meetings with a line already drawn in the sand. I hope he could get a group of people he could trust and come up with some alternative nicknames. [They can] maintain some of their past but not be offensive in any way. A new nickname is not going to erase [the team’s] great history and past Super Bowls.”