Earlier today, the Washington Post announced that it is the latest media outlet to banish the name of the Washington Redskins football team from its pages. This change affects only the editorial page, which has greater control over content than other pages. They also note that their criticism of the name has a more than 20 year history.
This is significant for several reasons: The Post is both a major national newspaper and the premier local newspaper of the DC area. Having an outlet like this join the campaign against the team’s name may have much more of an effect than random online magazines or TV & radio stations in other markets doing the same. It makes the issue much more prominent both on the national stage and in local Washington news.
The NCAA has done an admirable job at pressuring schools to abandon similar mascots. A few schools have (or at least claim to have) the support and consent of local Native American tribes for the use of names and symbols. Otherwise, team names like the “Indians” (Stanford and Dartmouth being two prominent examples: now the Cardinal and the Big Green) have all but disappeared from the college sports landscape. Pro sports haven’t really made any serious attempts at doing the same, so the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks, Kansas City Chiefs, and Washington Redskins retain their names. Of these, Washington seems pretty clearly to be the most likely to offend, using a name considered by many to be a racial slur. I suspect that the way the pro leagues working is the reason why they haven’t been able to change as much. Colleges are fully independent teams operating under the auspices of the NCAA. They have the freedom to choose who they will play and can pressure other schools to change by refusing to play them. Pro teams have no such luxury, so the responsibility falls to the league to enact any changes. There appears to be a growing consensus that Washington’s name is an embarrassment to the league, so maybe the name will change if it starts hurting the team’s or the league’s profits.