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Volume 24 No. 156
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ESPN Tackles Redskins Name Controversy With Hour-Long Special Edition Of "OTL"

ESPN dedicated a special hour-long episode of "Outside The Lines" last night to the ongoing controversy over the Redskins name. Team Owner Daniel Snyder continued his pattern of defending the name when he was asked why some people considered it a racial slur. Snyder said, "You're going to have some people that feel a certain way, absolutely, and we respect those opinions. But I hope they respect our opinion." ESPN's John Barr noted Snyder "repeatedly fell back on one word, 'truth,'" during the interview, which lasted more than an hour. Snyder said in snippets of the interview, "As my father would say, 'The truth's on your side.' … We've traveled and we've seen the truth. … Nobody in Washington, D.C., wants to talk about the truth. … So the truth is on our side." Snyder later in the broadcast said, "I've met thousands of Native-Americans. I've yet to meet one out there on a reservation that comes up to me and says, 'I don't like the name of your football team.'" He added of other teams changing their Native American mascots, "When you have political pressure ... that type of thing will happen." Barr said, "If they were starting a football team today, it would be unthinkable for the football team to be called the 'Blackskins' or the 'Yellowmen.' So why is it okay to have a team name that refers directly to the skin color of a certain ethnic group?" Snyder: "We live in the present and from that standpoint what we really feel, and I hope you respect, is the fact that that the name of our team is the name of our team and it represents honor, it represents pride, it represents respect."

LEAVING MONEY ON THE TABLE? ESPN's Peter Keating reported most analysts agree that Snyder "has an opportunity to generate substantially greater revenues by rebranding his entire franchise, including its name," rather than keeping the Redskins moniker. Forbes' Michael Ozanian said while it may cost $5-10M "to implement the name changes, I think the amount of revenue in terms of selling merchandise, team licensed products and from additional sponsorships would far exceed those costs." Keating noted Snyder "says his decision to keep the Redskins' identity is not based on financial considerations." Keating: "It's very hard to argue that, during this period that Dan Snyder has been fighting to cling to the team name, that Washington has been doing as well financially as it should, even though the team is valuable."

MORE THAN POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: NBC's Bob Costas and former Redskins TE Chris Cooley later in the show discussed the name, with Costas noting the issue to some extent has become a "media cause célèbre." Cooley said, "All who have any questions or objections about the Redskins name are motivated by political correctness, and some may be. But for many of us that has nothing to do with it. … Political correctness generally is dopey. It gets in the way of honest and fair debate. It silences people of goodwill who fear being mislabeled and imposes a kind of orthodoxy of thought and speech that isn't healthy." But Costas stated, "Redskins is a dictionary defined slur and insult. Not by one dictionary, but by every one I have consulted." But Cooley, a co-host for a show on the Snyder-owned ESPN Radio 980 DC, countered, saying, "I just don't feel that the intent or the context of the team Washington Redskins is to be disparaging any in way. The team Washington Redskins is meant out of respect, it's meant out of honor, it's meant out of integrity." Costas noted, "I don't think there's any maliciousness in Dan Snyder's position or that he's intentionally disrespecting anyone, at least up until now. But the tide is shifting a little bit. Eventually the reason I think the NFL and Dan Snyder should come around on this is not because of coercion, not because of legal action, not because of overblown accusations of racism, but because reasonable arguments persuade them that it's the right thing to do" ("Washington's Nickname: An NFL Dilemma," ESPN2, 9/2).

WHETHER TO SAY THE NAME OR NOT: While several prominent NFL voices, including CBS' Phil Simms and NBC's Tony Dungy, last month stated they will not say the Redskins name on air, CBS' Boomer Esiason will not be joining their ranks. He said, "I'm an announcer, I'm a broadcaster and I'm not going to not use the name Redskins. As long as the Washington Redskins are known as the Washington Redskins and the companies that I work for -- whether it be CBS or Showtime or anybody else -- uses those names in their graphics, then, as a professional broadcaster, I will use their name." He noted he has "felt the wrath of those people that find that it is offensive, but I also have gotten the support of those who feel that the name should remain." Esiason: "We’re all caught in a quandary of what to do here. I’m doing it my way, you guys are doing it your way, and I can appreciate it." Simms said, “I’ve heard a lot of positives about it when I said I wouldn't use their nickname when we do a game in Washington or even on this show. Most of it positive, but I've heard some negative comments. People say, ‘Well, why do you do it when the NFL says you can and all that?'" ("Inside the NFL," Showtime, 9/2).

: SBD/SBJ Exec Editor Abraham Madkour writes the publications "will continue to use the Redskins name in our editorial coverage." Madkour: "We understand the name causes offense to many people, but as a trade publication that covers the business of sports, we will follow the marketplace. As long as the NFL, the league’s teams, the sponsors, and the licensees and media companies that align with and use the team’s intellectual property refer to the team by its current name, so will we" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/1 issue).