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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: Slate, the New Republic, Mother Jones, and the Onion.
Change the name? Yes, yes, yes, and duh.
Why? Washington Pigskins owner Dan Snyder has faced lawsuits, the (admittedly tepid) threat of Congressional legislation, and public condemnation over his team’s name, which was adopted in the 1930s. But still, the billionaire refuses to acknowledge that the team’s name is offensive, if not wholly racist, and has vowed to never—in fact, “NEVER”—change it. Although it will likely take a boycott that hits Snyder deeply in his pockets for him to even reconsider reconsidering his stance, a number of smaller publications announced last week they would no longer refer to the ‘Skins by their controversial full name.
Slate, which runs a sports podcast, took the lead in the liberal media world last Thursday, and said it would no longer use the team’s name in its coverage of Washington’s hometown NFL team. Editor David Plotz called for the team to abandon its outdated name and compared it to an “old aunt who still talks about ‘colored people’ or limps her wrist to suggest someone’s gay.”
The New Republic’s editor Frank Foer immediately tweeted that Plotz’s argument for ditching the ‘Skins’ name in its copy was “airtight” and that his bi-weekly magazine would follow suit. The New Republic has mentioned the team more than a dozen times in its history—an impressive number for a politics and arts publication no doubt, but likely not a persuasive enough figure to convince Snyder to appeal to the populist opinion on the matter.
Sports coverage powerhouse Mother Jones followed Slate’s lead on Aug. 9 and said it would also drop the team name from its style guide. Though a search through Mother Jones’ archives yielded only four mentions of the team name, copy editor Ian Gordon wrote in a post that the magazine reserves the right to continue using the term—“if only to highlight how incredibly out-of-touch and backward the Washington football team’s owner truly is.”
In a modern-day sign of near universal agreement on an issue, the Onion ran a satirical article Monday arguing that the team’s name “is only offensive if you take any amount of time whatsoever to think about its actual meaning.”
Shame Spiral Rating: SMDH. When high-brow publications take time out from their political coverage to reflect on something as mundane as football, you know you’ve been shamed. If Congress hadn’t been on recess last week, this would have earned a middle finger on the spiral.