A new voice in the booth will surely mean a different “Monday Night Football” broadcast in a variety of ways. Redskins fans might notice one difference pretty quickly: fewer references to the team’s controversial nickname.
Veteran broadcaster Sean McDonough replaces Mike Tirico as Monday Night Football’s play-by-play man, starting with the Redskins’ season opener against the Steelers. McDonough said while he won’t avoid the nickname completely, he’ll use it as little as possible during the broadcast.
“My thought is, it’s their nickname. I’m not going to steadfastly avoid it, but I think I will use it as minimally as I can,” McDonough said in a recent interview.
While McDonough said he hadn’t given much thought to the nickname before taking the “Monday Night Football” post earlier this year, he said he was aware of a Washington Post poll that found 9 in 10 Native Americans say they aren’t offended by the nickname, and he’s also familiar with Oneida Nation and Ray Halbritter, a key figure in the fight against the nickname.
“I know Ray. He’s been as outspoken about it as anybody. If he’s hurt by it, you can’t ignore” the issue, McDonough said. “I am sensitive to both sides. If I do use the nickname, it will be as infrequently as I possibly can.”
While networks such as ESPN and CBS have given their broadcasters the option to use the nickname, just a handful of commentators have said publicly they’d limit their usage of the nickname or refrain from saying it altogether, including Bob Costas, Phil Simms and Tony Dungy.
Tirico, McDonough’s predecessor, had said he felt Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder and the NFL needed “take a long look at making a change,” but still used the nickname regularly on-air.
“[If] I’m there to document the game, and that’s what I’m paid to do and charged with, the body of the game broadcast to me is not the forum or the place to pass judgment on this issue while dancing around 2nd-and-5 at the 35-yard line,” Tirico told Sports Illustrated in 2014. “I think that’s a little unfair. … The appropriate approach to me is minimize the use of the nickname but not completely avoid it.”
McDonough told Yahoo Sports that he might use the nickname only once or twice during the broadcast of Redskins’ games.
“The rest of the night it will be, ‘First and 10, Washington at the 20-yard line,’” he said. “I think that’s the best way.”