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The Pigskins Shame Spiral is an occasional feature tracking developments related to the name of D.C.’s beloved football team.
Who: ESPN, the sports media behemoth (and NFL partner), whose ombudsman reported today on an internal “campaign to have ESPN stop using the name.”
Change the name? Maybe. Network execs have apparently resisted so far for one half-decent reason and two fairly craven ones. Half-decent: The network should be covering news, not making it. (Though that’s not always their style.) Craven: Owner Dan “Snyder would clearly not be happy at such a slap in his face and might make it more difficult for ESPN reporters to cover the team and its star quarterback.” Also craven: “A gesture as aggressive as attacking a famous, long-standing team is antithetical to the ESPN business model.”
Why? Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte doesn’t use what he refers to as “the R-word” himself in the post, though he does use it in quotes. He also quotes the ESPN vice president who led the campaign, Edmundo Macedo, on why he started trying to raise the issue: “Think about the name. Think about the stereotypical connotations around color. We would not accept anything similar as a team nickname if it were associated with any other ethnicity or any other race.”
Shame Spiral Rating: Finger wag. If ESPN actually followed through and stopped using the name, that might be enough to make Snyder and his employees think twice about embracing it so passionately. In reality, you can expect to hear frequent racial slurs on tonight’s Monday Night Football broadcast of the team’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and not just from idiotic Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper. Still, the fact that the network—which recently withdrew from a documentary on concussions, reportedly under pressure from the league—is even considering a change internally ought to shame Snyder a little bit. If, that is, such a thing is possible.
Illustration by Jandos Rothstein