Opinion | Sports

NPR Ombudsman: Limit use of Washington football team name

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National Public Radio ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos posts a lengthy discussion on the use of the Washington professional football team's name:
The word "redskins" is a racial slur. No doubt about it. But is it in the context of the team's ? Do most Americans think anything negative about Indians when they cheer, jeer or just say the name? What do most Native Americans hear in the name? Are the protesters just overzealous advocates long on "political correctness" and short on humor? Is there any proven harm being done to Natives? Or, relatedly, have we made mascots out a defeated people without asking them how they feel about it? On what side does the history of the name fall?

Those are just the factual questions. There is a moral one, ethics and morality not being the same thing. Is there a deeper moral issue of right and wrong at stake here, no matter what polls or studies show? If so, at what point does a news medium, especially a publicly supported one, have a responsibility to take a moral position? Or is its higher moral responsibility the professionally ethical one of being journalistically neutral?


Each of us will answer and weigh the questions in our own way, but my own conclusion based on the investigation that follows is that NPR should begin to purposefully disassociate itself from using the Redskins or the Washington Redskins on air and online.

The name should be avoided in Web headlines and used only infrequently in stories. Some news stories—not all—should note the name dispute in passing. Other features and analytical stories should continue to directly focus on the dispute and the use of Indian mascots by other teams, as was done this past season. Scott Simon, who has some leeway as a long-time host who also does commentaries, should be left to do what he is doing, as a major voice inside NPR reflecting a Native American view.

The hope is to encourage a public debate, allow Native Americans to be fully heard and see what social consensus emerges.

Get the Story:
Edward Schumacher-Matos : Ethics, Morality And A Ticking Clock For How To Report On The R**skins (NPR 3/19)

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