Opinion | Sports

Opinion: What happens when ESPN refuses to use the R-word?





Robert Lipsyte, the ombudsman for ESPN, considers whether the network might stop using the name of the Washington professional football team:
So what if ESPN refused to use the R-word?

That quixotic thought has been bubbling for a while in ESPN’s 150-person Stats & Information Group, where vice presidents Edmundo Macedo and Noel Nash collected information on the history of the team and opposition toward the name and then distributed it to network news managers. It was the start of a campaign to have ESPN stop using the name. Macedo told me that he thought the chances of actually succeeding were currently slim and none, but that it was worth the effort to get people thinking about it.

“Think about the name,” he wrote to me in an email. “Think about the stereotypical connotations around color. We would not accept anything similar as a team nickname if it were associated with any other ethnicity or any other race.

“Over the years, the more I thought about it, the less comfortable I became using it. I’m not sure other Americans have stopped to hear the voices of Native Americans. I can only imagine how painful it must be to hear or see that word over and over, referenced so casually every day.”

Imagination becomes reality on the website of Indian Country Today a leading location for Native American news. The “pejorative” name is extensively examined, including coverage of a federal trademark lawsuit against the NFL team and of a congressional call for renaming.

Get the Story:
Robert Lipsyte: So what if ESPN refused to use the R-word? (ESPN 9/6)

Another Opinion:
Emerson Marcus: NFL's Redskins nickname will eventually change (The Reno Gazette-Journal 9/8)

Also Today:
New York Times, AP Will Keep Using 'Redskins' Name, For Now (Forbes.com 9/4)

Related Stories:
Column: It's time for Washington football team to drop mascot (9/6)
Oneida Nation launching ad campaign against use of racial slur (9/5)
Mike Wise: Playing 'Injun' isn't an act for 72-year-old football fan (9/4)