NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos says it is time for NPR to “purposefully dissociate” itself from using the word “Redskins” on-air and online.
In a nearly 5,000 word piece on NPR's website, Schumacher-Matos, says, “NPR editors and sports reporters this past season met on the issue and decided to continue to use the team's name in news reports, editors told me. ‘Since the name of the team is the Washington Redskins, we use that in our reporting,’ Deputy Managing Editor Chuck Holmes said. But he added, ‘We also continue to cover issues prompted by the name’.”
Schumacher-Matos said that his first reaction was to agree with the newsroom and that it was up to society to change the usage of the name, or for the team to change it – not, he said something for NPR to adjudicate:
“Editors setting newsroom standards have to keep their fingers in the air to judge which way the winds are blowing on the changing meaning of words in American society. Leaders of both the National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Nation separately insisted to me that, among Native Americans at least, the meaning of the Washington team's name is clear and that it is well past time for NPR and the rest of the mainstream news media to ban saying it.”
But he eventually came to the conclusion that the name should change and that NPR should stop using it. “Every dictionary I could find describes the word today as derogatory,” he wrote. “The word ‘redskins’ is a racial slur. No doubt about it.”
Schumacher-Matos also weighs in on team owner Dan Snyder’s thinking about the name. Saying that “Snyder is hardly under much economic pressure to change. The Redskins is the third most lucrative franchise in the NFL, according to Forbes Magazine's annual valuation of teams. Snyder's most immediate problem was a disappointing season; some fans have taken to calling the team the ‘deadskins’.”
But he adds “no matter our good intention or what the polls say, it is up to Native Americans to say what honors and what offends them. The word is a slur and was immoral all along for us to use.”
You can read the entire article here.