Rivera said he and Snyder have been talking about a name change for more than a month, about the same time tribal leaders, politicians and others began their latest drive for Snyder to reverse his long-standing policy and eliminate a name that is a dictionary-defined rascal. He added that Snyder began talking seriously with NFL officials about the move 2½ weeks ago and suggested that the owner be ready to move.
Snyder has been under tremendous pressure from top sponsors, including FedEx (whose founder, Fred Smith, is a minority owner of the team) and Nike, to change their name. On Friday, Snyder announced that the franchise is undergoing a “thorough review”
Rivera, who has been on vacation, said Snyder called him early on many mornings to discuss the name and change of brainstorm.
“We came up with a couple of names – two of them I really like,” Rivera said, refusing to reveal those opportunities.
Rivera said he believes the most important criteria for a new name is that it respects Native American culture and traditions and is also a tribute to the military. Son of an Army officer, Rivera was raised on military bases; he noted that many Indians serve in the military, and he thinks the new name should reflect that. And he indicated that Snyder would agree.
“We want to do this in a positive way,” Rivera said, adding that he wants to make sure the name won’t be “a joke.”
Rivera’s feelings about the name have evolved. Part of his childhood was spent in the Washington area, and he grew up with an affinity for the franchise. He admired Hall of Fame linebacker Chris Hanburger and attended a football camp coached by the franchise’s all-time leading passer, Joe Theismann. And he loved the team name.
“It was hard to understand that it was in any way a racist thing, to be honest with you,” he said. “Now that has changed in perspective.”
He said he thinks the name should change.
“My eyes are wide open,” he said.
Asked if Snyder thinks the same thing, Rivera said he thinks so, based on their conversation.
On December 30, Snyder resigned from team president Bruce Allen and hired Rivera as coach the following day. At that time, the team portrayed the movements as a fresh start for the beginning of a new decade. Rivera said he and Snyder have talked about the name change being part of the new beginning.
Until a few days ago, Rivera had not discussed the team’s name publicly. Last week he was asked about it during a performance on a radio station in Chicago. He caused a movement when he said, “I think it’s a discussion for another time.”
He clarified his remarks on Saturday, saying he had been preparing to talk about the team’s response to George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed – a topic he had dealt with publicly earlier in June, when he announced a franchise initiative to create law-sponsored city halls for to discuss race issues. He said he considered these protests a separate issue from the dispute over the team name – although recent calls to change the name spilled from the protests.
He said he did not address the name change directly because he considered it a problem in the Washington area and he did not want to talk about it in a radio show in another city.
“It’s meant for the DC area,” he said. “That’s our conversation.”
He said that he has researched the team’s history, read books and other material on the subject, and that he even got the team to prepare a nearly two-hour presentation about the team’s beginnings and name their origin. He said he has not thought about the process and believes it is part of his job. And he said he took a call from “a high, high-up person” at the NFL office Friday to discuss the name change.
“That’s what I signed up for,” Rivera said.