Safety Joey Browner is one of the Vikings’ all-time greats, having been inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor last year. Browner, who is of American Indian descent, has also been a vocal critic of the Washington Redskins nickname. In light of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this past week canceling the team’s trademark on the name, the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand caught up with Browner on that and other subjects.
Q I’ve only seen your name recently linked to the movement to ban the Redskins nickname. How long have you been a part of it?
A For a very long time. For my generation and the generation before me, it just shows we have a long way to go in terms of getting these derogatory images and statements brought forth and dealing with them in a way that’s not derogatory — and educating people about what it is and why this needs to be changed.
Q The ruling this week — what impact do you see that having on the issue and what direction can it take things?
A If the Patent Office is changing it, that means the country is changing its consciousness to understand what words and imaging is doing to our generations. The country, not just the individuals, is taking steps toward the next generation and generations beyond to move toward righting a wrong.
Q Washington owner Daniel Snyder has been resistant — some would say defiant — when it comes to change on this issue. What’s the tipping point? What will it take for the Redskins name to change, and how does “never” go to a reality of it changing?
A You just said it. “Never” turns into a reality that it has to change. That’s what’s happening with our government system letting them know they’re not going to stand for it anymore in the system. By saying that, [Snyder’s] peers are putting pressure on him now. … It is happening, and it’s for the better. For him, I just pray for him. That’s all I can do. Just pray for him.
Q Is there any more activism being planned locally?
A The plan is just to change things locally and nationally, and then individually the consciousness of imagery and words that are damaging to our communities and society as a whole.
Q Shifting gears, you were a Vikings first-round draft pick as a defensive player out of a Pac-12 school [UCLA] in 1983. What advice do you have for Anthony Barr, who fits that description 31 years later?
A The main thing is to do your due diligence and study the game of football. That means know offense as well as defense. Come in prepared to know the different philosophies and schemes and be ready to do it in the classroom before you do it on the field.
Q What was the toughest transition you went through from college to pro?
A In college, there might be only two [players] on the field that are professional [caliber], but at the professional level all of them are. The speed of the game doesn’t change; it’s the content of the game. They’re professionals at each position. … In college, they are students of the game. When you are hired to be a professional, that means you are a master of that position.