Seattle Times bans use of ‘Redskins’


(Nick Wass / AP)

Many people have argued that the real-world impact of Wednesday’s trademark cancellation could be negligible. Here’s Jordan Weissman, writing in Slate:

It’s an important moral victory for the activists (and fans of basic racial sensitivity) who’ve been campaigning fruitlessly for decades, in court and out, to make the franchise change its moniker. But it might be worth tempering expectations here: Even if the decision holds up on appeal—which it might not—it’s unclear whether this ruling will actually cost the NFL or owner Dan Snyder much in the way of cash.

Others — including a lawyer for the plaintiffs — have argued that the value of Wednesday’s news was symbolic, and that it will serve to help add fuel to the campaign.

And thus, here’s Seattle Times sports editor Don Shelton, explaining Wednesday why that paper will no longer use the word Redskins, not to refer to the Washington Redskins and not to refer to Washington state’s Wellpinit High, a school district that is 67 percent Native American and that also uses the nickname Redskins.

The most controversial name in sports won’t appear again in The Seattle Times’ print edition or on the seattletimes.com home pages as long as I am sports editor.

It’s time to ban the use of “Redskins,” the absurd, offensive and outdated name of the NFL team in Washington, D.C.

Past time, actually.

We’ll probably receive scathing emails, letters, phone calls and reader comments telling me we’re too PC, that the name actually honors Native Americans or that we have no right to change a team’s official name.

Everyone’s entitled to an opinion – even if I don’t buy it.

We’re banning the name for one reason: It’s offensive. Far from honoring Native Americans, the term colors an entire race. Many Native Americans consider it an outdated label placed on their people.

Randy Lewis, a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes who is a board member for United Indians, didn’t pull any punches when asked what he thought.

“I find it as offensive as black people find the N-word,” he said. “They say they’re trying to dignify or honor something with it. It doesn’t dignify us. It doesn’t honor us. It doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves.”

Later, Shelton noted that the word was virtually extinct in his paper anyhow; for two decades, editors have “allowed it once per article and kept it out of headlines and photo captions.”

The Times joins other publications and writers that have stopped using (or severely limited use of ) the word, including the Kansas City Star, the Portland Oregonian, the Orange County Register, the San Francisco Chroniclethe Salt Lake Tribune,  Washington City Paper, DCistSlate, Mother Jones, The New RepublicPeter King, and sportswriters in Buffalo and Philadelphia.

Speaking of Wellpinit High — mentioned above — superintendent Tim Ames talked about the issue this week. Via KREM:

“A lot of families [have] identified it with pride and have never seen it as a derogatory comment,” said Ames. “We also have a part in our community that’s interested in educating ourselves about what the Redskin name means and how it will impact students as its considered a derogatory name.”…

Ames said the conversation started-up again in June, though it did not create a community uproar. Ames said the governing body on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit approached the school district about educating people about what the Redskins name meant and potentially changing it.

Full disclosure: Times Assistant Sports Editor Ed Guzman used to work for The Post. I haven’t talked to him in years, and have no idea whether he had anything to do with this decision.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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