In 2013, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King announced that he would no longer use the name Redskins. A year later, King predicted in his Monday Morning Quarterback column that Washington’s NFL franchise would have a new team name by 2016 and explained his reasoning during an interview on ESPN 980.
“I think if you just look at the tea leaves and see what’s happened in the last 12 months, there’s been a groundswell,” King said in July 2014. “The groundswell has gotten into the halls of Congress, not just on the sports pages of America and on the Internet. And I think that my big reason for saying this is that I don’t think the issue is going to go away.”
The issue didn’t go away, but neither did the Redskins name. A Washington Post poll released last week that showed nine in 10 Native Americans are not offended by the Redskins name brought the debate to the forefront once again, leading King and others in sports media who have spoken out against the name to respond. On Tuesday, King wrote a column explaining why he still “won’t use the ‘R’ word” and cited the fact that 21 percent of the poll’s respondents said they felt the word Redskins was disrespectful of Native Americans.
“So knowing a segment of your audience feels a word is something between disrespectful or (according to Merriam-Webster) a slur, why would you continue to use it?” King wrote. “Though the results of the Post poll were more decisive when Native Americans were asked if the term was offensive — 90 percent of the respondents said it was not offensive to them—I’m still struck by the intensity of opinion on this issue. If somewhere between 10 and 21 percent of Native American are offended by the team name or find it disrespectful, then why continue to use it?”
King admitted that he was surprised by the results, but said that the poll won’t change his opinion on the issue.
“I stopped using the name because I had become increasingly bothered by using a word that some people felt was insulting,” wrote King, who allows other writers for his MMQB site to decide for themselves whether to use Redskins. “Even though I had expected more Native Americans would be upset by the nickname, the fact that a clear majority are not doesn’t change the fact that it makes me uncomfortable to use the name.”
Former Post columnist Mike Wise, an outspoken advocate for retiring Native American mascots and names for more than a decade, questioned whether a poll should influence a moral decision in a column published Monday on ESPN’s The Undefeated.
“The Washington Post polled 504 Native Americans across the country and found that 90 percent say they aren’t bothered that the name of the pro football team in the nation’s capital is an offensive term for their race,” Wise wrote. “Does that mean people who want the name changed are wrong in their belief that an NFL franchise shouldn’t use a racial slur based on the stereotype of a people’s skin pigmentation? No. Never.”
Wise cautioned against anyone using the results of the poll to end the debate about the name.
“If ethical decisions were decided by majority rule, the poor and the weak would have no moral standing; indeed, every minority group would be outvoted,” Wise continued. “That doesn’t deny the existence of the opinions. It just means that public opinion is an evolving animal. What we think in the moment doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s morally right.”
NBC Sports broadcaster Bob Costas, who declared the Redskins name an insult and a slur in his personal essay during halftime of Redskins-Cowboys “Sunday Night Football” game in 2013, told The Post’s Paul Farhi last week that the poll hasn’t changed his stance.
“As I said in my halftime essay, and have repeated since, I do not believe there is any offense intended by the Redskins team name or by its fans,” Costas said. “But as I have noted, this is a football issue and there is a distinction between this issue and others that might be influenced by political correctness run amok, and it is simply this: Every dictionary defines Redskin as an insult, a slur, a derogatory or pejorative term. That is what separates it from names like Chiefs, Braves or Warriors, which are not, by definition, offensive.”