The ‘Redskins’ Controversy Ships Back Up to Boston

With the Patriots facing the Washington team in preseason this week, the controversy around use of their name in the media grows.

Associated Press

Associated Press

With the Patriots kicking off preseason against the Washington Redskins, the national controversy surrounding a name many deem a racial slur has grown more relevant than usual around these parts.

In today’s Boston Globe, columnist Christopher Gasper wrote that the name needs changing. It should not be up to publications like the Globe and columnists like himself, he argued, to decide whether to use it. For now, though, with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder unsympathetic to such arguments, it has been up to individual publications to use the name or avoid it. Boston’s have mostly continued to run the name as is. Under the Globe’s former ownership last year, editors decided to continue using the name until the team changed it.

“We just decided to leave it the same. That is, we call them the ‘Redskins’ until they’re officially changed if that does indeed ever happen,” Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan said. “It sure seems like its moving that way.”

In the face of an owner unsympathetic to demands that the name change, other media outlets have decided not to carry on running a word that is a source of offense and controversy. Several print publications, from The Kansas City Star and the Oregonian to The New Republic and Slate, have ceased printing the name. Some broadcasters are leaving it up to individual announcers to decide whether to use it. In Boston, both the Globe and the Herald have continued to use it (as does Boston Magazine).

Even so, Gasper isn’t the first Globe employee to come out against the name itself. The Globe editorial board advised a change in January. Celtics beat writer Baxter Holmes, who is of Native American descent, wrote a piece for Esquire about the name’s painful history. Reporter Kevin Paul Dupont wrote a piece last year probing the name’s origins in Boston that read, in many ways, as critical of the original name change as one made for crass reasons. (Then-owner made the switch from Boston Braves to Boston Redskins in part to highlight the Native Americans on the roster, at least one of whom seemed to be lying about his origins.)

Gasper’s column did prompt Sullivan to revisit the paper’s policy with editor Brian McGrory this week. Together, they decided to stay the course.

“My thinking on it is we can’t just pretend it doesn’t still exist,” Sullivan said. “And we don’t necessarily make editorial decisions like that—opinion editorial decisions like that—in news stories, whereas Chris in the column can obviously come out against it.”

So as New England practices against then plays Washington this week, look to see the ‘Redskins’ name in print. By the time the regular season rolls around, who knows?

“If the situation changes, we certainly could revisit it. But that’s where we are now,” Sullivan said.