ESPN's Ditka Calls Debate About Redskins Name "Appalling," Hopes It Never Changes
The debate over the use of the Redskins name continues to gain steam after CBS' Phil Simms and NBC's Tony Dungy recently said they would not refer to the nickname, but count ESPN's Mike Ditka as a supporter of the moniker. The Pro Football HOFer said the debate is "so stupid it's appalling" in a recent interview posted on RedskinsHistorian.com, a blog run by author Mike Freeman. Ditka added he hopes Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder "keeps fighting for it and never changes it, because the Redskins are part of an American football history, and it should never be anything but the Washington Redskins." Ditka: "It's so much horseshit it's incredible" (REDSKINSHISTORIAN.com, 8/14). CNBC's Joe Kernen said Ditka "isn't Native-American, so he doesn’t know whether it's offensive or not" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 8/20). Meanwhile, former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said, "The whole 15 years I was there, I never once heard anything negative at all about the Redskin name. When we got a song, ‘Hail To The Redskins,’ it was about courage and pride and bravery. ... That's kind of where I am on it and I can't see me really changing my mind” (“America’s Pregame,” FS1, 8/19).
MICHAELS SAYS IT'S NOT HIS PLACE: NBC's Al Michaels also weighed in on the topic yesterday during an appearance on ESPN Radio's "The Herd." He said, "What are we supposed to do at a certain point, when, let’s say 90,000 people, after a touchdown are singing ‘Hail to the Redskins’? Are we supposed to bleep that out? ... In my role, as a play-by-play announcer -- and I’m not begging the issue here -- but my role is to report. People don’t want me to advocate. There’s nothing that can flip the audience off more than a play-by-play guy, in the middle of a game that they’ve tuned into watch and want to enjoy, advocating or getting up on a soapbox. Maybe you can do that on a pregame show; you can certainly do it on your show. But when I’m doing the game, people have tuned in to watch the game, and that’s what I want to give them. I can take a stand in other places, but during the game itself, this is what people want to watch" ("The Herd with Colin Cowherd," ESPN Radio, 8/19). Meanwhile, NBC's "Nightly News" aired a report on the controversy last night, and Washington Post columnist Mike Wise said of Simms and Dungy, "These are household names during the fall in our living rooms, and if they're not using the name and other people start not using the name, you do become irrelevant at some point as a brand" ("Nightly News," NBC, 8/19).