by Jon Brooks
The San Francisco Chronicle will no longer use the term “Redskins” when referring to Washington’s football team. The move comes amid renewed calls from many Native American groups to change a name they say is derogatory. Even President Obama weighed in this month, telling the Associated Press that he would “think about changing” the name if he owned the team.
Chronicle Managing Editor Audrey Cooper spoke today with KQED’s Mina Kim about the change. Cooper said one of the paper’s sports columnists recently brought up the issue, and that the Chronicle newsroom is almost unanimously in support of the move.
“I don’t think there are very many people who can debate that it is not a patently offensive term,” Cooper said, pointing out that other media outlets, including the Oregonian and Kansas City Star, have already made the change and that she expects more to follow suit. “We’re just increasingly making better decisions about how we’re using words, which are really powerful tools.”
You can listen to the interview here:
Earlier, Cooper told Politico:
“Words are powerful, and so is how we choose to use them,” Cooper said in an email. “Our long-standing policy is to not use racial slurs — and make no mistake, ‘redskin’ is a slur — except in cases where it would be confusing to the reader to write around it. For example, we will use the team name when referring to the controversy surrounding its use.”
Cooper said she doubts any regular reader of the Chronicle or website SFGate.com would have noticed the choice to use “Washington” instead of the team name, and that they are choosing to use another word that “accurately describes what we are writing about.”
NBC Sports first reported the news last night, attributing it to “multiple industry sources.”
The 49ers play … umm… uh … the team in question on Nov. 25. (Yeah, that conversation has begun.)
For decades, American Indian activists and others have been asking, urging, and haranguing the Washington Redskins to ditch their nickname, calling it a racist slur and an insult to Indians. They have collected historical and cultural examples of the use of redskin as a pejorative and twice sued to void the Redskins trademark, arguing that the name cannot be legally protected because it’s a slur. (A ruling on the second suit is expected soon; the first failed for technical reasons.) A group in the House of Representatives also recently introduced a bill to void the trademark. The team has been criticized from every different direction, by every kind of person. More than 20 years ago, Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser, no politically correct squish, urged the team to abandon the name. Today, the mayor of Washington, D.C. — the mayor! — goes out of his way to avoid saying the team’s name.
Why, then, has nothing changed?
Plotz then points out the decision rests solely with Washington team owner Daniel Snyder, who said this to USA Today in May:
“We will never change the name of the team,” Snyder told USA TODAY Sports this week. “As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means, so we feel pretty fortunate to be just working on next season.”
What if his football team loses an ongoing federal trademark lawsuit? Would he consider changing it then?
“We’ll never change the name,” he said. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
Here’s a letter that Snyder sent to the team’s fans explaining his stance.
A few weeks ago, President Obama told AP: “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that the name of my team, even if they’ve had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”
Nancy Pelosi told The Hill this week that it “probably would be a good idea if they change the name.”
“So one of the first songs I ever learned in my whole life was, ‘Hail to the Redskins.’ I didn’t have the faintest idea what I was saying, but I’ve known it forever,” she said.
The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, reported Tuesday that Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met yesterday to discuss the issue.
The controversy has heated up since the Oneida Nation launched its “Change the Mascot Campaign” last month, “calling upon the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell to do the right thing and bring an end the use of the racial epithet.”
Here’s a CNN report on the debate: