The Washington Post’s editorial board writes Friday that it will stop referring to the Washington NFL team by its proper nickname, joining the ranks of the growing library of publications and writers who feel that it is a derogatory term better left unprinted. While the board has urged the team to change its name to something that doesn’t insult Native Americans (or any other group) since at least 1992, it writes today that it will finally get ahead of the team on the issue.
“[W]hile we wait for the National Football League to catch up with thoughtful opinion and common decency, we have decided that, except when it is essential for clarity or effect, we will no longer use the slur ourselves,” the board writes. “That’s the standard we apply to all offensive vocabulary, and the team name unquestionably offends not only many Native Americans but many other Americans, too.”
The change only applies to articles issued by the editorial board itself; letters to the editor using the team’s name will not be altered, and the news pages will continue to refer to the football club by its popular name.
“Standard operating policy in the newsroom has been to use the names that established institutions choose for themselves,” the Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, tells his Metro section. “That remains our policy, as we continue to vigorously cover controversy over the team’s name and avoid any advocacy role on this subject.”
While the Post’s news pages strenuously avoid taking a firm position on a name that most dictionaries define as a racial slur, its opinion pages are already flush with writers who would like Washington’s professional football franchise to be called something else. Besides sports columnist Mike Wise (easily the loudest bullhorn on the issue), Metro columnists Courtland Milloy and Robert McCartney have penned their opposition to the name, as have opinion columnists Charles Krauthammer and Colby King.
The team’s executives might not lose that much sleep over this, though. Their official “content partners” at the Washington Times routinely publish editorials defending the name from the “politically correct crowd.” Then again, the Post’s editorial board cites as inspiration a column by Krauthammer, the paper’s resident fussy conservative and no fan of political correctness.
Also, the Post has several times as many readers as the Times.