The 73-year-old, who played for Washington from 1966 to 1975, has worked for the team in supporting the controversial name. He said that during his nearly 50 years with the organization he has never found that Native Americans have a problem with the team's name.
“I strongly support changing the name if the majority of Native Americans support that,” Schoenke said at the panel that included local media members and a Native American activist who is against the name. “To date that is not the case. I have never felt in 48 years association with the Washington Redskins that the name was a slur, demeaning or derogatory in any sense of the way.”
Instead of changing the name, Schoenke said the team should use its prominent role to improve the lives of Native Americans.
“Because of the economic power of the National Football League they could really make a difference and to me that is what it’s all about,” Schoenke said. “If you can change those conditions because of that name, wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that opportunity?”
The team's name has been at the center of debate for the past year as critics say it is offensive to Native Americans. National Public Radio said it will limit the use of Redskins to "situations where it is absolutely integral to the meaning and spirit of the story being told." The FCC said it will consider punishing broadcasters for using the term during broadcasts.
In a poll of more than 500 NFL fans conducted by Sports Illustrated, only 25 percent of fans said the team should change its nickname.
Snyder, who sat with the outgoing president of the Navajo Nation at last week's game in Arizona, has repeatedly stated he will not change the team's nickname.
- Paul Palladino