NPR is latest to tackle Washington Redskins’ name controversy: is the Voice next?
After the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected the use of “Redskins” for heart attack-inducing pork rinds and for potatoes, NPR released Wednesday a critical reflection on the morality of the media’s use of the controversial name. The reflection comes after Weekend Edition host Scott Simon referred to the D.C. football team as “the Washington football club whose team name I refuse to utter.”
According to NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos, although Native Americans actually have tanned or brown skin, they were to first to use the word to distinguish themselves from the mostly white-skinned British and French. In 1933, Boston Braves owner George Preston Marshall changed his then Boston-based football team to the Redskins, apparently in honor of former coach William Dietz, who identified as Native American. The Redskins moved to D.C. four years later.
In the past year, Democratic leaders such as Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi have pushed the Redskins to change its name, even though current owner Daniel Snyder has refused to do so. Pew Research Center has found at least 76 news outlets and journalists who oppose or refuse to the name. Schumacher-Matos said that NPR should fall into the opposition camp.
“It is not NPR’s position to be an advocate for what Snyder should do, but NPR does have responsibility over its own use of language,” he wrote. “The name of a football team is not something worth clinging to if it challenges our fundamental social and political structure. To me, the clock is ticking on the team name and what NPR should do about using it.”
Voice Sports Editor Chris Almeida, however, wrote in the Voice’s print edition in Dec. 2013 that those who are against the Redskins name should attack other teams with equally derogatory representations of Native Americans that remain, such as the Florida State Seminoles and the Kansas City Chiefs, and not exclusively focus on the Redskins.
“To be against the Redskins name is hip,” he wrote. “Being a part of the majority that hates the Redskins is a way to ease one’s majority guilt, or to seem socially aware while avoiding truly investing oneself in an issue. People who love using the “racist” or “sexist” card, or whatever it may be, are as much of a problem as bigots themselves.”
While the Voice does plan to discuss the turning tide against the use of team’s name, Editor-in-Chief Connor Jones refused to comment. (Note: Vox did not actually reach out to Jones for comment.)
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