Carolina Panthers

Observer to avoid use of Washington NFL team’s nickname

Starting with Sunday’s newspaper, The Observer will generally avoid references to the Redskins nickname for Washington’s NFL team. Exceptions will include stories that address the controversy.

Newspapers in Seattle, Portland, Detroit, Salt Lake City, and Kansas City preceded us. Just this week, the New York Daily News joined them. A number of television analysts, including lead CBS analyst Phil Simms and NBC’s Tony Dungy, also refuse to use the nickname.

In August, The Washington Post, the team’s hometown newspaper, banned the use of the nickname on its editorial pages except in stories about the name itself.

We understand that the name is beloved by many, and we respect their affection for it. But consensus is growing that a nickname referring to the skin color of a race of people is no longer appropriate.

• Dictionaries define it as a term that is usually offensive.

• Many major Native American groups and 50 Democratic U.S. senators have called for the team to change the name.

• And, in June, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team’s trademark, ruling that the name is disparaging.

We expect that the nickname will appear inadvertently at times, particularly online, because it continues to be used by a variety of news services, including the Associated Press. But as much as possible, we will discontinue using it.

This decision will not otherwise affect our coverage of the team. Before the expansion Carolina Panthers began play in 1995, Washington games were televised in the Carolinas every Sunday, and the team still has a large fan base here. Perhaps you are among them.

They were my team growing up.

After the 1972 season, Washington reached Super Bowl VII. At the time, I lived just outside Washington, in Northern Virginia. I was in third grade, and I could recite the roster – number, name, position – from memory. Posters of Billy Kilmer, Sonny Jurgensen, Larry Brown and Jack Pardee were on my bedroom wall.

Later, when my family moved to the Carolinas, I was thrilled that Washington games were on television each week.

In this newspaper, their Sunday games were often among Monday’s headlines. They still will be, just without the nickname.