The drive to shame the Washington Redskins into changing its offensive moniker took a big blow Wednesday when The New York Times and Associated Press confirmed they would continue calling the team by its given name.
While publications that rarely cover the NFL like Slate, Mother Jones, The New Republic have made it policy to drop the name, the movement to force a name change will need a bigger outlet to have a real effect. If The Times or the A.P. chose to join the fight, something might break. "Those are the two organizations whose usage standards, more than any others, are used as the model for newsrooms across the country," Forbes' Jeff Bercovici explains. So he asked those two publications whether or not they would stop using "Redskins." Times' standards editor Philip Corbett explained that, while acknowledging the word's history as a derogatory term for a Native American, the situation with the football team was a little different. The Times won't be changing their usage:
But I think the situation is more complicated in the case of a sports name like the Washington Redskins. When we write about the football team, I don’t believe readers think that The Times is intending the term as a slur referring to Native Americans.
A spokesperson for the A.P. was much more abrupt: "No plans to change it that I’m aware of."
There is no debate that the term "redskins" is offensive and, while the efforts of some political publications that only write about football a handful of times a year were noble, ultimately their boycott is unlikely to change owner Dan Snyder's mind. When sportswriter Peter King's new Sports Illustrated offshoot website MMQB, joined the cause, the movement got a big victory. As one of the outlets that most heavily covers the team, The Washington Post might help the cause, but so far the paper has remained relatively silent on the issue. Snyder has many faults, and the levels he's stooped to in order to keep the name are lower than you could imagine. He's vowed to keep his team's racist name no matter what.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.