Why Lorenzo Alexander didn't speak up sooner about Redskins name

Chris Lingebach
July 08, 2020 - 4:47 pm

Lorenzo Alexander played six seasons in Washington, but is only now speaking out in favor of the Redskins changing their name.

Even by his final season in Washington in 2012, the name change controversy was in full swing, with frequent critics using the sudden popularity of Robert Griffin III to attach their message to the team's upward trending arrow.

The outcry for the team to change its offensive nickname had reached a fever pitch, as Alexander and the rest of his Redskins teammates stood silent on the issue.

So what makes now so much different?

"What I'm about to say, obviously the name should be changed," Alexander told 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. "But I can be seen as hypocritical because I played for the team and never really said much of it."

"But I think once you kind of step away from it and kind of analyze what the word means and the progression of it – because it wasn't always a derogatory name, but at some point it got attached to killing of Native Americans," he continued. "And there's obviously a group in the Native American community that feels that it is derogatory, and they've always shown up and always protested, even while I was there, as far as getting the name changed."

"You had Mike Wise, while he was a beat reporter, always kind of championing the cause," he said. "And I think we can no longer kind of stand behind ignorance or the fact that it doesn't really impact me, right. So as a black man in the community, (it) would be very hypocritical for me to say, 'No, I love the name! It doesn't impact me!' when my community is kind of in an uproar right now speaking out on the same thing to the white community as far as some of the things that we see and how our lives are impacted."

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Alexander was as thoughtful and measured in his response as he has been on previous social issues, understanding that many fans have real passion tied into the Redskins name and rich NFL history and that doesn't make them bad people. The importance of now, he says, is for those same fans to listen and acknowledge the other side of the argument.

"You just gotta continue to try to educate yourself and see it from the big picture," Alexander said. "I know that for a lot of people, it's just a name. They've fallen in love with the team and that team name has become synonymous with the championships, all the players, but it is a name and it means something much different to a group of people.

"And so I think the best thing – and I don't think this is where it ends at – I think the right thing to do is obviously change it to something that is much better, not offensive, and I think it would be better for the organization obviously overall to kind of get this out of their PR box."

"Because every year, you know you're gonna have to talk about it in some way," he said. "It's another distraction that I think has always taken away from football there and so I think it's a good thing. Obviously it had to take all this and I think the social unrest that we saw with black and white – our relations – allowed the Native American community to really gather support, because it's always been an issue but they never had a loud enough voice or the support."

"And now you have corporations backing them by no longer selling merchandise and obviously investors are trying to pull financial relationships from Washington as well, and so now Mr. Snyder has the opportunity to make a decision that is I think the best for him, his peace of mind," he continued. "He doesn't have to worry about it anymore."

"And then also I think at the same point, it's kind of a blessing for him because I think a lot of times, because the fan base didn't want the name changed, he kind of stood in that corner, and so now they can collectively kind of move together and do what's right, and move away from this and do a good thing," he said. "But this is only I think the start of change in America that we need."

For Alexander, he sees the controversy around the Redskins name as a sterling example as to why it's so important for people to use their voices to speak up, that a direct line can be drawn between powerful voices breaking their silence and real social change. The same line can be drawn between silence and inaction.

"It always matters who the messenger is and the type of leverage, and the type of influence, the type of value that you have to the organization or the authority that you're trying to get to change their mind," he said. "I mean all of that matters, whether or not you're heard or not, and I think that's why the Native American community wasn't heard or wasn't responded to the way they wanted to, because their voice wasn't big enough. And so that same thing applies to individuals."

"Some people have more leeway because of the value that they bring on the football field and the influence that they're able to have in the community, as well as in the organization, as far as when they speak, people tend to listen based on just productivity, relationships or whatever it may be, that allows them to speak to groups that other people otherwise wouldn't have the ability to influence the same way," he said.

"And that's why I think it's so important that, as we move in this country together, that everybody gets involved," Alexander said. "Because everybody has a different sphere of influence, everybody has different relationships.

"Some are bigger than others and that's why it takes all of us to create change, because if FedEx didn't jump on board, this probably wouldn't have got done. And so by them including themselves in the conversation and for change, it allowed for change to occur, and that's why I think everybody's responsible for the direction of our country as we move forward."