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As the Redskins begin training camp today in Richmond, the controversy surrounding the team’s nickname is generating as much buzz as its on-field prospects for the upcoming season. With national debate reaching a head, more media outlets have begun to outline policies on usage of “Redskins.” However, a poll of 48 newspapers -- those in NFL markets plus the L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today -- showed that 44 have yet to make a change regarding usage of the name. The four that have banned use of the name will simply use “Washington” when referring to the team.
THE NEXT STEP: The Seattle Times just ceased use of the Redskins moniker in June. Sports Editor Don Shelton said he made the decision to minimize the use of “Redskins” about 20 years ago -- only once in stories, not in headlines or cutlines -- but last month stopped using it altogether. The decision came about when a new employee joined the staff. “He asked me what our policy was," Shelton said. "I thought about it. We minimized it 20 years ago, so this was just the next step.” Shelton penned a blog post to inform readers of the decision, and said he received at least 100 phone calls and more than 300 e-mails, with the reaction split down the middle. Going forward, the Times will make an exception and use it when discussing the controversy, but otherwise, “Not as long as I’m the sports editor,” Shelton said. Among the papers polled, the Detroit News and S.F. Chronicle also have terminated use of the nickname in the past year.
A LONG-STANDING POLICY: The K.C. Star, which boycotted the name 15 years ago, made headlines in ’12 when its public editor Derek Donovan penned a strongly worded editorial defending that policy. He wrote, “I almost always come down on the side of publishing a word when it's the crux of a debate ... But I see no compelling reason for any publisher to reprint an egregiously offensive term as a casual matter of course.” The paper’s Assistant Managing Editor of Sports Jeff Rosen noted the practice of referring to the team simply as “Washington” dates back to the late '90s. Rosen: “It was determined by our leadership at the time that we certainly wouldn't casually publish slurs or derogatory epithets about other ethnic or cultural groups, be they African-American or Asian -- so why would we do so with a term deemed offensive by Native Americans?” Donovan said that the main “sticking point” regarding the paper’s policy comes from those who compare Redskins to the Chiefs moniker for the hometown team. Donovan admitted there "can be some disagreement" about whether "Chiefs" is offensive or not. But he said that is "obviously in a completely different ballpark.”
NOT FOLLOWING THE LEADERS: Even with the number of papers not using the name quadrupling in the past year, they are still in the minority. Some major papers cited a desire to abstain from taking a side on the issue, and therefore continue using the name, while others simply have chosen to adhere to the team’s official name. The N.Y. Times continues to use the team’s nickname, but Assistant Managing Editor for Standards Philip Corbett said that the paper’s staff has continued to discuss and cover the issues surrounding the name. He said when referring to the football team, “I don’t believe readers think that The Times is intending the term as a slur. We're also wary about taking sides in an ongoing controversy that we're covering as a news organization.” He added, “It's certainly legitimate to question the use of sports names with that sort of background or history. In the end, though, I'm not sure The Times’ stylebook is the place where this debate is going to be resolved.” The L.A. Times in May published an editorial calling on the NFL to force the team to change the name. However, because the NFL still recognizes “Redskins” as the official moniker, Sports Editor Mike James wrote in an e-mail, “We’re not ready to make the step to stop using it.” He added the paper is having “ongoing discussions” about its use in print and online. "As someone who grew up in DC and was a die-hard fan growing up," James wrote, "I’ve had some difficulty for some time understanding why a team in the nation’s capital would continue to use -- and continue to be allowed to use -- a recognized slur as a nickname.”
USE AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION: Due to the consolidation of media properties under common ownership, a more dramatic shift against the name’s usage could be more likely to occur at the corporate level. South Florida Sun-Sentinel Exec Sports Editor Gregory Lee noted that the paper gets its sports wire content “in packaged form” from its parent company, Tribune Co., and therefore is not in a position to have an in-house policy on the name. Tribune owns nine major dailies, including three in NFL markets, plus the L.A. Times. But Chicago Tribune Editor Gerry Kern in an e-mail wrote, “While a lot of content, including sports, is shared among Tribune newspapers, each paper is free to choose its own course on this issue.” Meanwhile, USA Today Sports Media Group President Dave Morgan, who oversees more than 130 print and digital properties, shared a similar sentiment. He wrote in an e-mail that there is no corporate policy, and reporters and editors “will continue to use their discretion about the appropriate uses of the nickname.”
NATIONAL SERVICES CHIME IN: While most newspapers have stood by use of the moniker, Peter King’s The MMQB completely eliminated the name from its vocabulary last August. Meanwhile, CBS Sports last week said that it will allow its broadcasters to use their own discretion when referring to the team. ESPN in a statement said, "We use the marks and nicknames as utilized by the teams, leagues and conferences we cover."
The Redskins' name controversy is a hot topic for all media members. With several news outlets deciding in the last year not to use the nickname and refer to the team solely as "Washington," SI.com's Richard Deitsch conducted a roundtable on the comfort level reporters have with using the Redskins name on air. ESPN's Josina Anderson said, "I don't believe it should be censored from a journalistic standpoint. Our use of the name in the dissemination of information isn’t a sign of advocacy. Rather, I see it as a continual recording of its existence." Anderson added, "I don't have a personal problem with any reporter who has taken a stance on the issue and who demonstrates their opposition through omission of the name. But when it comes to using the name in the line of work, I choose to stay neutral." ESPN's Adam Schefter said, "Not my job to make a stand on their name. If they're keeping the name, I'll keep using the name. If they're not, I won't. I'll call them whatever the team calls itself." FoxSports.com's Alex Marvez said, "I have no problem using it because I don’t feel there is any racist intent in use of the nickname. But if they became the Redshirts or whatever tomorrow, that’s fine with me, too. I understand why people would be upset about this, but I also don’t think my readers care about my social views on this subject." However, The MMQB's Robert Klemko said, "I don’t use it. I’ve felt that it is offensive for a long time. ... Last February before I joined SI, I wrote a letter to my sports editor at USA Today requesting a policy change on the name" (SI.com, 7/20).
SHOULD CBS TAKE A STANCE? CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus last week said the net would not dictate to its broadcasters whether to use the Redskins name or not during a telecast, but the N.Y. Daily News’ Mike Lupica said, "The idea that announcers should actually refrain from calling the Redskins ‘the Redskins’ this season -- as if that solves anything -- is as silly as (Redskins Owner Daniel) Snyder is stubborn and pig headed on the issue." Lupica: "We've survived this long with this nickname, and that includes well-intentioned people leading the crusade against it. We’ll survive hearing them called Redskins this season by football announcers" (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN2, 7/20). ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said, "I can't pretend it's not the name of the team. That's really the reason why I think they should change it, because it's the only remaining reason why the word is used. But I can't pretend it isn't. ... If the team is going to be continued to be called that, it strikes me at minimum a complicated exercise not to call the team by its name. That's the problem with the team having the name. If everyone ignored the team's name, the name wouldn't be a problem” (“Mike and Mike,” ESPN Radio, 7/21). However, in DC, Thom Loverro wrote if CBS "believes the name is offensive, don’t use the name." Loverro: "Take a position. Don’t leave it up to your announcers, who will now be on the firing line in the name change debate." People "will be keeping score, and taking notes." Loverro: "Will Phil Simms use the name? If so, does that make him a racist?" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 7/23). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy called CBS' stance "weak." He asked, "Why should broadcasters be the ones to make a decision on The Team That Must Not Be Named. Networks, both local and national, are going to have to provide some direction" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/20).
WHAT ULTIMATELY COULD BRING CHANGE: Wall Street Journal Sports Editor Geoff Foster said of the Redskins name, "The only thing that’s really going to make them change the name is if serious financial implications come into play. If a company like FedEx, who sponsors the Redskins field, says ‘We're going to revoke that sponsorship until you change your name.’ Or (if) they lose their trademark which is currently in the appeals process. If they lose their merchandise, they start losing money, the league starts losing money. Then they might change the name” (“CBS This Morning,” 7/19).
Conde Nast yesterday said that its Golf World magazine "is closing its print edition and shifting entirely to digital media, where it will be part of the Golf Digest website," according to Michael Sebastian of AD AGE. A magazine spokesperson said that nearly 10 employees "were laid off as a result of the move," which combines Golf World and Conde Nast-owned Golf Digest into a single news division. The company made the announcement in a blog post. Instead of "publishing a print magazine 31 times a year, Golf World ... now becomes a weekly email newsletter sent to subscribers 50 times a year" on Mondays at 7:00am ET. Golf World's website "will also include daily updates," and print subscribers of Golf World "will start receiving Golf Digest, which is published 12 times a year." The changes "take effect next week." Golf World Editor-in-Chief Jaime Diaz "will keep his title and lead the combined news-division team, continuing to report to Golf Digest Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde." Dan Robertson "remains the publisher of Golf Digest and Golf World." Alliance for Audited Media data showed that Golf World "averaged paid and verified circulation of 213,387 during the last six months" of '13. Media Industry Newsletter said that print ad pages "were off 28.5% through its July 21 edition." The changes "come as Conde Nast has sought to inject new life into Golf Digest amid waning interest in the game of golf" (ADAGE.com, 7/23). Golf World is the "oldest golf magazine in America," publishing its first issue in '47. However, Tarde is not looking at the July 21 issue "as the last one." He said, "Golf World is not ending. We're moving into a bigger digital footprint. ... We've got another cover coming next Monday. We're all about producing great content. Where it appears has become less critical'' (AP, 7/23).
Boston-based WEEI-FM "Dennis & Callahan" co-host Kirk Minihane will "not be suspended" in the wake of additional critical on-air comments made yesterday about Fox Sports' Erin Andrews, according to Gary Dzen of the BOSTON GLOBE. Minihane’s "most recent comments on Andrews came during a segment in which he at first seemed contrite, explaining to co-hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan why he was mistaken in criticizing her so crudely last week." He said, "I used a word to reference Erin Andrews that I shouldn’t have used to reference Erin Andrews." But Minihane then "explained why he finds Andrews underwhelming at her job." He said, "I will say this. I think she stinks at her job. I don’t think she’s very smart, I don’t think she comes across as very smart. I think Fox only hired her because she’s good-looking. I think if she weighed 15 pounds more she’d be a waitress at Perkins. That’s what I believe." WEEI "didn’t see anything wrong with what Minihane said Wednesday, posting the full audio of the comments under the headline, 'The triumphant return of Kirk Minihane.'" Entercom Boston VP & Market Manager Phil Zachary, whose firm owns WEEI, in an e-mail wrote Minihane "has learned some 'hard lessons'" as a result of the ordeal (BOSTON.com, 7/23).
STICKING TO HIS GUNS: In Boston, Jessica Heslam interviewed Minihane, who said, "Does anybody think that if Erin Andrews looked like [CNN's] Candy Crowley that she’d have that job at Fox? Nobody thinks that." Heslam notes Fox Sports "slammed Minihane in a statement." The statement read, "Now it’s clear that the apologies he’s made are completely disingenuous. Erin Andrews is a consummate professional and has excelled at her on-air work in sports since she broke into the business 14 years ago. ... Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but unfortunately here we have a boorish, misguided, misinformed radio host trying to raise his profile at the expense of someone simply doing her job." Heslam writes once the "dominant Hub sports station, WEEI has been trounced" by WBZ-FM in a "ratings war since the competition debuted five years ago." Minihane said that his bosses "didn’t force him to apologize and he insisted it wasn’t a ratings ruse." He added, "We have never once, not once, sat around and said, ‘Hey this is a good idea for a ratings ploy or boy, this would be a good ratings stunt'" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/24).
TIME FOR HIM TO GO: ESPN's Keith Olbermann named Minihane his "world's worst" person in sports for his comments yesterday and called him a "derelict of some kind." He appears on a "televised car wreck ... evidently in order to make hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan seem less psychotic." Olbermann: "WEEI radio and NESN television have to fire this guy who can't go 10 seconds after apologizing for making a sexist insult before making another sexist insult against the same woman. They have to fire him. He’ll be lucky if he finds work at the Perkins" (“Olbermann,” ESPN2, 7/23).
In Houston, David Barron reports Astros Owner Jim Crane on Tuesday won a battle in his lawsuit against Comcast, NBCUniversal and former Astros Owner Drayton McLane, as the case was "returned to state district court." U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur in his 11-page opinion wrote the factors favoring retention of the case in federal court "are not of great importance and persuasion.” Crane's suit alleges the three parties "agreed to 'conceal material information' about the CSN Houston business plan." Meanwhile, the RSN's bankruptcy case "remains before Isgur, who has scheduled an Aug. 7 status update on what attorneys for the network says are bids by a buyer or buyers to purchase CSN Houston" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/24).
PENNANT FEVER: In Sacramento, Tom Couzens notes the A's finale of a four-game series against the Astros at O.co Coliseum will be aired "only on radio." Some A's midweek day games "aren't on TV" because the club's contract with Comcast SportsNet California calls for broadcasting only 145 regular-season games. Five more midweek day games "aren't scheduled to broadcast, including three in September." But officials at the RSN assure A's fans they will "consider adding games that might affect the pennant race" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 7/23).
I'M LIVING ON THE AIR IN CINCINNATI: In Cincinnati, Shannon Russell reported for the first time since '08, ESPN2 will broadcast the ATP Western & Southern Open singles championship, which had been airing on CBS in recent years. The net will have the WTA singles final at 2:00pm ET, "as it has in prior years," but now fans can "keep the channel tuned to ESPN2" for the 4:00pm men's match. ESPN shows more of the combined ATP/WTA event "than any other summer hard court event." The '14 tourney will "tally 28 hours for television and even more hours for ESPN3, where matches on three courts will be available" (CINCINNATI.com, 7/23).
SPANISH FLAVOR: The Texans on Tuesday announced its Spanish radio broadcasts will move to Houston-based KGOL-AM. Play-by-play announcer Enrique Vasquez will be joined by analyst Gustavo Rangel and sideline reporter Daniela Rodriguez. KGOL also will air 30-minute pre- and postgame shows and a one-hour Texans-focused show on Tuesdays beginning Sept. 9 (Texans).