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Should Washington’s Football Team Continue Using the Name ‘Redskins?’

Finally, a sports controversy that has nothing to do with steroids, gambling or murder!

The debate over the Washington Redskins‘ name and its relationship to the Native American community has been with us for a while, so here’s what happened this summer:

  • Team owner Dan Snyder said he’ll “never” even consider changing the name
  • NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told NBC that “The name from its origin has always intended to be positive and has always been used by the team in a highly respectful manner”
  • Upstate New York tribe Oneida Nation launched a radio ad campaign that will pressure the team to change the name throughout the season
  • A group of Native Americans filed suit looking to strip the team of federal trademark rights to the name
  • Former Raiders CEO Amy Trask wrote that it is “unacceptable to use a derogatory term when referring to any person or any group of people; and the word Redskins has been widely used throughout our history as a derogatory slur”
  • “Full-blooded American Inuit chief” Stephen Dodson “reached out“ to tell the team that he’s “honored” by the name and that others can’t claim to speak for the entire NA community
  • USA Today sports reporter Christine Brennan wrote that “It’s time I stop” using the name
  • Sports Illustrated writer Peter King plans to stop using it because he doesn’t “want to be a part of using a name that a cross-section of our society feels is insulting”
  • SI readers mocked King’s announcement, calling it “ridiculous” and “nonsensical”
  • Slate, The Buffalo NewsThe New RepublicMother Jones and other publications announced plans to stop using the word, but The New York Times and the Associated Press will continue using it this season.
  • In repeat polls, a considerable majority of the American public supports the continued use of the name, though the majority has dropped from 89% to 79% since 1992

The tides shifted a bit yesterday: in a radio interview, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said for the first time that “If one person is offended, we have to listen” because the “league needs to ensure it’s representing the franchise in a positive way.”

While owner Dan Snyder clearly has the support of a majority of football fans and the public at large, the controversy won’t end anytime soon. What’s the best move for the team, the NFL and the journalists who cover it?

*Photo via Rob Carr/Getty Images

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