October 30, 2013

Media take sides on ‘Redskins’ name

FT_13.10.29_redskinsAt least 76 news outlets and journalists have publicly stated their opposition to the Washington Redskins name or moved to restrict or ban its use, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

The decades-long battle over a term that critics regard as a racial slur re-emerged earlier this year after D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray raised the issue and a group of Native Americans argued before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that the team  should lose its trademark protection because the name is disparaging. Team owner Dan Snyder responded in May, telling USA Today, “We’ll never change the name of the team. It’s that simple.”

NFL executives are meeting today with the Oneida Indian Nation to address the controversy over whether to change the name.

A month after Snyder’s statement, two sports journalists, Tim Graham of The Buffalo News and John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News, wrote pieces indicating they would stop using the Redskins name in their reporting. Since then, a number of media outlets and personalities have weighed in—from The Washington Post editorial board to veteran NBC sportscaster Bob Costas.

Those who have publicly endorsed a name change represent a small fraction of the media universe and some of its members, such as sportswriter Rick Reilly, have defended the name. According to a June Washington Post poll, 66% of D.C. area residents don’t believe the name should be changed.  One notable D.C. resident, President Barack Obama, said he’d  “think about changing” the name during an October 5 interview with the Associated Press.

The ongoing media debate over how to describe the Washington football team harkens back to other cases in which journalists and news outlets have changed practices or policies because of concerns that language was offensive or inappropriate. Earlier this year, several news organizations announced a ban on the term “illegal immigrant” because it lacked precision and too broadly labeled a large group.

To determine how many media organizations and journalists have spoken out against the name, we culled from a number of sources, including the Oneida Indian Nation’s list.  While our list does not represent a complete census, it does provide a sense of the growing ranks of those opposing the name.

Here’s how the roster breaks down:

  • Twenty-four news outlets or journalists no longer use or limit the term “Redskins.” Sports Illustrated’s Peter King announced in August he would no longer use Redskins, writing that “it offends too many people.” USA Today’s Christine Brennan, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow have also boycotted the term. The other 52 outlets or journalists have said the team’s name should be changed.
  • Twelve news organizations have policies restricting or banning the use of the name. The Oregonian’s policy dates back to 1992, but most policies were implemented in 2013 (eight of them), with the most recent being reported as the San Francisco Chronicle.  Half of these outlets are newspapers; the others include online publications like Slate and magazines like The New Republic.
  • Newspapers are by far the largest sector in our sample. All told, newspaper companies or journalists who work at newspapers account for almost half (35) of those that have expressed some form of opposition to the Redskins name. That is followed by 18 television outlets or journalists and 13 online publications or journalists.
  • Journalists or news outlets that only cover sports make up more than half (42) of our sample. One of the most noteworthy was NBC’s Cris Collinsworth, who anchors the network’s marquee Sunday night football games. During Showtime’s Inside the NFL show, he stated “in this day and age, Redskins just doesn’t work.” But 34 general interest media outlets or journalists outside of sports have also opposed the term, including columnists Charles Krauthammer and Maureen Dowd.
  • Seven journalists who opposed the Redskins name are associated with ESPN, the dominant sports cable network.  They include Keith Olbermann, who recently returned to the sports network after stints as a talkhost at MSNBC and Current TV. The others include Tony Kornheiser, Bill Simmons, Matthew Berry, Paul Lukas, Gregg Easterbrook and LZ Granderson.

Topics: News Media Ethics and Practices

  1. Photo of Monica Anderson

    is a research associate focusing on internet, science and technology at Pew Research Center.


  1. Michael3 years ago

    A major ski resort near Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley, has not been renamed. It was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games.

  2. Larry Johnson3 years ago

    The continued use of the Washington team’s derogatory name by the Associated Press runs counter to the guidelines in their own Stylebook. Here’s an excerpt under the entry for “race”:

    “Do not use racially derogatory terms unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.”

    The team name is clearly offensive to Native Americans, and it’s easy to substitute “Washington” in articles covering the team.

    As for the poll, I grew up in the South during the 1950s and 60s. If a poll had been done here in Georgia asking if the use of the “n” word by whites was morally objectionable the answer would have been a resounding no. Often simple respect and morality trumps public opinion.

  3. Fact Checker3 years ago

    Please everybody learn where the term originated before you argue about this topic. Look up Ives Goddard’s “I am a Red-Skin”. Draw whatever conclusions you want, but it is flat out stupid to regurgitate the incorrect argument that this term came from scalping.

  4. JohnB3 years ago

    The Clintons were if office for 8 years and we had Redskins. The Obamas have been in office over 5 years with Redskins.

    And now, with all the problems in the country and the world, substantial time, energy and money is spent to try to force a football team to change a name that has been in use for almost a century.

    The groups pushing this obviously have nothing better to do with their time. Feed the hungry, help the homeless, get a job that does not entail harassing other people for a living.

  5. Noel Purser+Rosario4 years ago

    Which tribe, might I ask? My bet would be that you are not enrolled in ANY. Or if you are, you were raised off-reservation. Am I right?

  6. Sanford Goldberger4 years ago

    WHO CARES ???

  7. RickO4 years ago

    Leave the redskin name alone, change the mascot to a potatoe!!

  8. Faith4 years ago

    I have a mixed ethnic background, including American Indian and see no problem with names like the Redskins, Warriors, Indians etc. I am very proud of my American Indian heritage and I feel that these team names honor the spirit of our total American Heritage.
    I despise all this politically correct garbage, I think it has actually made race baiting and hate language worse. Get a life leftist media!

    1. Aaleeyah4 years ago

      Krauthammer=leftist media?!

    2. El Kamau4 years ago

      I’m an endangered species and think that poachers should hunt my kind into extinction. Humans gotta eat and benefit of my body parts.

    3. El Kamau4 years ago

      I’m an endangered species and think that poachers should hunt my kind into extinction. Humans gotta eat and benefit from my body parts.

  9. Maria Rose4 years ago

    Cool. I didn’t know the number would be this high. If people look at the list, conservative journalists are on it too. Not just a liberal thing.

  10. FJMac4 years ago

    I will not purchase the Phila. Daily News ever again. I am sure that they at the news could care less. No problem

  11. JohnHH4 years ago

    I like “Washington Indians”…”Cleveland Indians”. Add “Football” or “Gridiron” where you wish. Too simple?

  12. alan yelsey4 years ago

    Thank you for the research. The word “redskin” comes from the blood of the scalps of murdered indigenous children and families. Using a racial slur and a word steeped in tragedy is not only wrong, it is illegal because it discriminates on the basis of race, religion, color, creed and national origin. To reduce sacred images of ancestors, clothing, words, songs, and culture to mockery and caricature is illegal. Imagine a group that murdered your ancestors making fun of your religion or your heritage. The use of such stereotypes damages all indigenous children and empowers insensitive people to reduce all people of color. The word redskin in not only offensive, it is illegal and it harms real people by creating victims. The press must stop using the “R” word until the NFL and the team stops.

  13. donx654 years ago

    Odd that people are selective about which Indian names to attack. What about all the high school teams? Place names? And bye the way, we are all “Native Americans” since we are born here. And goodly numbers of us have some Indian ancestors, but do not object to Indian names. Fix a real problem!

    1. Maria Rose4 years ago

      “A number of teams, mostly in the college ranks, have changed their names in response to objections. The Stanford Cardinal and the Dartmouth Big Green were each once the Indians; the St. John’s Redmen have become the Red Storm, and the Miami of Ohio Redskins – that’s right, Redskins – are now the Red Hawks.”

  14. Dennis Hill4 years ago

    Screw the leftist media. The fans are the ardent supporters of professional sports, the media merely profits from sports. This decision should be made by the fans, not by the arrogant media profiteers. How about baseball’s Pittsburg Pirates. They were named after groups of seagoing renegades who drank, stole, murdered and raped their way about the worlds oceans. I doubt there are few sports team names that don’t offend someone.

    1. Leif Fearn4 years ago

      Leftist? If the media are leftist, and I were a leftist, I’d want protection from that media.

    2. Tom in Raleigh4 years ago

      Next time you rail on in such a silly fashion, you should look into what you are talking about.

      The Pirates are not named after Pirates, they got it because of a shady deal they made way back when they were known as the Alleghenies. It was a nickname.

      It’s also not an ethnic slur…unlike Redskins, which, love it or hate it, is.

  15. Bill4 years ago

    Solving the Redskin controversy is simple. Remove the head in the gold circle, and replace it with a picture of a “Redskin” potato – keeping the name WASHINGTON REDSKINS.

  16. Mr Story4 years ago

    Media/Redskins So What? The media was & is in the tank for BO & BO care which is absolute proof that education does not cure stupidity! I’m part Indian & proud of it & have no problem with “The Redskins”! Mr Story

  17. j4 years ago

    Then we better get ready to change the name of the state of Oklahoma, since it means “red people” in the Choctaw Indian language.

  18. David Hendricks4 years ago

    I see the term paleface is politically incorrect/demeaning to white skinned people?

  19. kim cloud4 years ago

    Cleveland Indians next? I think the emblem on the Washington helmet is a respectful image. Reminds me of the Seminoles hassle a few years back.

    1. Noel Purser+Rosario4 years ago

      Are you an enrolled citizen of a federally recognized Native American tribe? If not, refrain from assuming your opinions will reflect mine. I would prefer to listen to other natives, like myself, on this topic than non-natives who are in no way impacted by racism directed towards us.

  20. David Hendricks4 years ago

    Just what is so offensive about the name “Redskins”. Maybe if the team name was the “Washington Palefaces”, I could agree. Get real people and get a life.

  21. Larry4 years ago

    Freedom of speech is surely taking a hit by the word police and political correctness.

  22. S. Miller4 years ago

    American Indians are making a mistake in asking that Indian names be removed from sports teams. Little by little, Indian nations have been reduced to unimportant by other Americans. In every sports case, the Indian name is an indication of power. As long as these names are before the public, you the American Indians (and I am told by tribe members that they don’t approve of the “Native American” tag) will be remembered. Accented. If all these name titles are gone, you will be totally forgotten. Don’t do it.

    1. Noel Purser+Rosario4 years ago

      Well, being a Native American, I do not observe the same things you have.

      If anything, forcing people to do something about their prejudices and ethnocentric attitudes by not allowing ourselves to be demeaned and trivialized is a greater demonstration of our “power”.

      The term Redskin has a really horrible history steeped in genocide. It is offensive. End of story.

      I would rather be invisible than be defined by racist and stereotypical images.

      I don’t CARE if non-natives never hear about a legitimate Native American culture or tribe. Really, I don’t. I DO care about the images and themes associated with Native American cultures that are degrading and lacking in authenticity and cultural sensitivity.

      You don’t want to be held accountable for your ancestors (or predecessors if your family immigrated here in the last decade) genocidal habits, right? Then…don’t follow in their footsteps and cling to discriminant and ethnocentric attitudes.

      P.S…where I live, my tribe is the second largest employer in the county after the D.O.D…our “power” is recognized throughout the region, without racist mascots or slurs being involved.

    2. Leif Fearn4 years ago

      Indiannations are rising, not being reduced. “Being reduced” presupposes an action by those doing the reducing. Indian people no longer pay much attention to nonIndians, so nonIndians are no longer in any position to do any reducing.

    3. TL Begay4 years ago

      We need to remember Native Americans, but let’s remember them in ways that demean and derogate them. Right…

  23. R brox4 years ago

    The Washington Redskins have capitulated and dropped the offensive name. From now on they will be known as the “Redskins” only, as they do not which to offend the rest of the country.

  24. Curmudgeon4 years ago

    When will Americans finally rise up and one, disband the ACLU and anyone that tries to be “politically correct.

    1. Noel Purser+Rosario4 years ago

      Good question.
      I’d like to see a good Minstrel Show again. Bah Humbug to all this political correctness and keeping racists in check! (sarcasm)

    2. Leif Fearn4 years ago

      Ah yes, disband the one organization that commits to the protection of our Bill of Rights. My freedom is protected by the American CIVIL LIBERTIES union. The Bill of Rights represent our civil liberties. Our ten freedoms are difficult to understand, often inconvenient, and difficult to protect. It would be easier of protection were as easy as soldier suits and guns, but it isn’t that easy. If it were, the freedoms wouldn’t be worth much.

      1. Noel Purser+Rosario4 years ago

        Oh Goodness…are you serious? “Civil Liberties” ? well, I just might start my own sports team. I will name them The Stupid Racists. And I will use you as our mascot 😉

  25. Albert L Gorham4 years ago

    If the Washington Redskins have to change their name. Who will be next ?
    The Florida State Football Team ?
    They have a Indian Name ” the Seminoles.”

  26. Hutch4 years ago

    It is time for EVERYBODY to get off of making anything someone decides is politically incorrect is justified. “Redskins” is NOT meant as an insult; therefore it is NOT.

    1. Noel Purser+Rosario4 years ago

      …I think you would benefit from this article: people.uncw.edu/browna/documents…

      Intention does not override social responsibility.

  27. Leif Fearn4 years ago

    I am waiting for comment from the National Congress of American Indians. Or the Seminole tribe, whose name is used by Florida State University and whose Billy Oseola remarked that “If the NCAA wants to clean up its house, it can start by banning the thugs and criminals among its players and coaches.” Mr. Oseola apparently didn’t care much about what football platers wear on their hats. Or the Navajo Nation whose Red Rock High School calls itself, “Home of the Redskins.” Or the Tlingit tribe, whose men’s federation hall shows a sign with the title, “Redman.” Or the Assiniboin Cree, or All-Pueblo Council, or Eight Small Tribes of Western Washington, and on and on. It seems that Indian people, not the wretched “native American” nonsense, care less about mascots than they do about nutrition, education, and housing. Guilty nonIndians persist with BIA, not Bureau of Indian Affairs; rather, Batting Indians Around, characterized this time by deciding how Indian people’s names shall be used.

    Leif Fearn

    1. Noel Purser+Rosario4 years ago

      You obviously do not know the history of many of the things you just listed.

      I suggest you research them…it all goes back to…racist white people. Surprise surprise.

      Don’t be one of them.

  28. Robbie Robertson4 years ago

    This is Political Correctness run amok. All these journalists and those who have come before in the past 81 years, who have cheerfully and willingly and many times with admiration, called this team the “Redskins”, have suddenly and shockingly discovered that they find the name offensive? These detractors are nothing but outrageous hypocrites. The lesson is you must conform to “Group-think”. My guess is that most of these people would secretly like to see the name remain but are too beholden to peer pressure to say so publicly. And once this blows over they will “discover” something new that will offend them.

    1. Noel Purser+Rosario4 years ago

      People like you will never understand why they are accused of racism their entire life. Astounding. I can NOT believe what I am reading here…

  29. Merry Roloff4 years ago

    Totally ridiculous in my mind. They should not cave to the pressure of changing their name.
    I am 1/8 American Indian and think these people doing the howling have nothing better to do that find something to complain and whine about. No, life is not fair and we will always encounter some “thing” in life that we don’t like. Get over it and move onto something more productive, more positive. Every race at some time has been persecuted in some way. I prefer to look towards the future and not dwell on the past. We sometimes forget that our native American ancestors were pretty brutal to each other, way before the white man got here. Tribes constantly fought and killed each other, even sometimes kidnapping women and children. Sometimes they attacked and killed peaceful white men and their families. But I don’t hear any white guys screaming about all the killing done by our native ancestors. Life is what we make it. Dwell in the present. Someone, somewhere will always be uncomfortable with the way things are. But ya know what, this is a free country and we have the right to name our team anything we want. Mine just happens to be the Broncos. Some people may find that name offensive.

    1. Noel Purser Rosario4 years ago

      Oh, 1/8th are you?

      What tribe? Are you enrolled? I doubt it.

      Snoop Dog is 1/4th French. Does he get to be a voice for contemporary French Politics?

      The name is racist. Your own racism prevents you from seeing it.

  30. Kearney4 years ago

    Why not call them “Whiteskins”

    1. Bud Wood4 years ago

      Or, for those in professional football for a season, maybe the purple skins?

  31. Noel Purser Rosario4 years ago

    Once upon a time…there was a bounty on my people’s flesh.

    Men, women, children, and even babies were murdered and mutilated, so their scalps and skin could be turned in for financial compensation.

    Due to dried blood and natural pigmentation, the dried skin would turn a reddish color.

    The slur “Redskin” was born.

    I understand this is a “free” country, and even racist people are supposed to be tolerated, if nothing else, here.

    Yet I applaud the folks who have decided to be what I consider “good” people, and take -my- feelings on the topic into consideration. Since, you know, I am one of the people directly impacted by this episode of blatant racism.

    I will never understand why people do not see a problem with this team name, or racist mascots for that matter. Then again, I am not a racist so I guess I will never understand their thought process.

    1. David Hendricks4 years ago

      Long long ago the term Redskins could have meant what you say. But I never heard that before. I just thought that is what whitemen called American aborigines. No harm no foul. Stop living in the past.

      1. Noel Purser+Rosario4 years ago

        Well, to those of us still impacted by this term, it is still very real and relevant. Just as my pointing out your obvious ignorance and condescending attitude (probably stemmed from inherent racism and ethnocentrism you don’t wish to work on) is still very relevant to you. But, go on. Your feelings and opinions on an issue that directly impacts me and stereotypes and insults me, and my people, certainly trump our own, because you are white and white=right, correct?

  32. Larry Brunton4 years ago

    News organizations are Liberals. They don’t want to use the tern “illegal immigrant” and now they don’t want to use the term “redskins”. Is this any surprise!

    1. Noel Purser+Rosario4 years ago

      Yes…people breaking a law and illegally entering a country and the terminology that surrounds them obviously correlates to numerous generations of genocide and racially demeaning slurs that I do not deserve to have thrust upon my person.

      My ancestors were murdered and mutilated, skinned and scalped, by folks who would turn in their “redskins” for financial compensation. There was once a bounty on native americans, you know that right? That is where the term originates.

      If you don’t see how this would offend me, and still assume I am a liberal and “politically correct”, I suggest you research the definition of racism and see how your mentality fits it to a T.

      1. Leif Fearn4 years ago

        There is a lot of suggestion for people contributing to this list to do the research, as though there are people in the know because they have conducted the research. I have worked on the southern coast of Alaska, Lukachukai, Dulce, Sacaton, Neah Bay. I knew Russell Means, Mary Reilly, Herman Cata, Allan Yazzie, Raymond Nakai, Ron D. Allen. What does your reference to “research” mean? Have I done mine? What else, if not? The point of Indian affairs today is now. Sand Creek and Wounded Knee are important. They are also over, and perseveration on the past compromises attention to the now and the future. Start a school, a woman’s self-determination organization, a company that employs Indian people. Build houses where there are none. Start a food bank in Metlakatla to feed Tlingit and Haida people. The folks at Red Rock whose tribal school’s marquee reads “Home of the Redskins” could use some TLC in the form of educational technology. People’s talk gets in the way of any possibility of action. Rhetoric about what appears on some ball player’s jersey is easy. It also detracts from actually doing something. And I remain in wait for a comment from any confederation of native tribes on the subject of what a sports team calls itself.

        Leif Fearn

        1. Research3 years ago

          I know this is an older article, but for anyone finding this now and wanting to actually read the history on the term “Redskin”, here is the link with a full origin and history in all of its contexts.