Washington Post editorial board stops using the word ‘Redskins’


The Washington Redskins logo is seen on the field before a game against the New England Patriots in Landover, Md., on Aug. 7. (Alex Brandon/AP)

The Washington Post editorial board said Friday that it will stop using the word “Redskins” when referring to Washington’s football team, joining a growing list of commentators who have renounced the term because they believe it disparages Native Americans.

In a statement, the board said, “While we wait for the National Football League to catch up with thoughtful opinion and common decency, we have decided that, except when it is essential for clarity or effect, we will no longer use the slur ourselves.”

The editorial board is separate from the news-gathering side of the organization, which Executive Editor Martin Baron said will continue to use the team’s moniker.

“The Post’s newsroom and the editorial page operate independently of each other,” Baron said. “Standard operating policy in the newsroom has been to use the names that established institutions choose for themselves. That remains our policy, as we continue to vigorously cover controversy over the team’s name and avoid any advocacy role on this subject.”

Tony Wyllie, the Redskins’ senior vice president of communications, said the announcement was “no surprise.”

Where notable people stand on the name. (Click the image to expand and see other viewpoints)

“The editorial board has been opposed to the Washington Redskins name for more than 30 years,” he said. “We just wish they would have taken us up on our offer to visit several reservations to see how much Native Americans embrace and value the name and use it as their own logo and mascots across this country.”

The team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, has vigorously defended the name, arguing that it honors Native Americans and vowing never to change it.

He continues to have the support of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and, more recently, a group of former Redskins players. This week, former Chicago Bears coach and ESPN analyst Mike Ditka called the debate over the name “stupid.”

Snyder and the team’s president and general manager, Bruce Allen, learned about the editorial board’s decision Friday during the team’s 53rd annual Welcome Home Luncheon at the Gaylord National Convention Center at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. The gathering is a fundraiser to benefit the team’s charitable foundation.

Opposition to the name has been percolating since the 1960s, but the campaign against it has taken off in the past year, in large part because of the efforts of the Oneida Indian Nation.

In a joint statement, Ray Halbritter, the representative of the New York state tribe, and Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, called the policy change “appropriate and honorable” and said, “Media outlets must decide which side they are on — are they going to continue promoting a racial slur or are they going to stand on the right side of history?”

The Post editorial board’s stance against the name predates Snyder’s ownership of the team. It published its first editorial decrying it in 1992 but last used the name of the team in an Aug. 13 editorial.

In its statement, the board said: “We don’t believe that fans who are attached to the name have racist feeling or intent, any more than does Mr. Snyder. But the fact remains: The word is insulting. You would not dream of calling anyone a ‘redskin’ to his or her face.”

The change in policy does not apply to readers whose letters appear on the editorial pages.

Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor, said a number of factors contributed to the board’s decision to stop using the name now. In the past, the board’s prevailing view was: “We’re a newspaper. We have to cover the world as it is.” But over time, Hiatt said, that argument could not overcome “our discomfort in using a slur.”

He said the board has also been influenced by what he called recent “momentum” against the name, including the decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in June to cancel the team’s trademark registration. The team is appealing the decision, which would not force the franchise to drop the name.

The editorial board’s announcement follows many other public condemnations from elected officials, civil rights leaders and clergy members. Prominent sports writers and some Post columnists have stopped using the moniker, along with news organizations ranging from the Seattle Times to the Washington City Paper.

The announcement was denounced by some fans.

“If I were the team owner, I might change the name, but I would defend Dan Snyder’s right to keep the name and never change it before I would defend the Post’s position to never use it,” Lou Pettey of Bethesda said in an e-mail.

Desmond Lee, a lifelong fan who grew up in McLean, Va., said polls show the board is out of step with the overwhelming majority of Americans and Native Americans, who don’t find the name offensive.

Even some critics of the name were under­whelmed by the announcement. “You print [the name] in the Sports section thousands of times,” Bethesda native Joshua Gray said. “If you believe the word is a slur, don’t use it.”

Liz Clarke contributed to this report.

Annys Shin has been a staff writer at the Washington Post since 2004.
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