Redskins Name Change: Controversy Continues To Build As Washington Prepares For 2014 NFL Season

Dan Snyder Redskins
Dan Snyder continues to resist calls for the Washington Redskins to change their name.

Two NFL analysts have announced that they will no longer refer to Washington’s professional football team as the “Redskins” on air. Phil Simms of CBS and NBC's Tony Dungy have decided not to use the name, which is considered by many to be a slur against Native Americans. The decision by the broadcasters is yet another setback for the organization, which has remained steadfast in their stance to maintain the nickname despite mounting social pressure and possible financial repercussions.

"My very first thought is it will be Washington the whole game," Simms, a former quarterback for the rival New York Giants, told The Associated Press on Monday. "I never really thought about it, and then it came up and it made me think about it. There are a lot of things that can come up in a broadcast, and I am sensitive to this."  

Simms is CBS’s lead NFL analyst, and he’s scheduled to be on the call for the contest between the Washington Redskins and New York Giants in Week Four. Dungy, a former head coach who now works as an in-studio analyst for NBC’s "Sunday Night Football," told the AP in an email that he would try not to say “Redskins” during the broadcast.

The comments from the former quarterback and Super Bowl-winning head coach are just a small part of the controversy surrounding the name of Washington’s NFL team. California lawmakers have recently gotten involved, as well, calling for a team name change. The California Assembly approved a measure, by a 49-5 vote, asking owner Daniel Snyder to get rid of the name “Redskins,” which is widely viewed as a racial slur.

While the Assembly has no authority over the organization, Washington has seen legal ramifications because of the offensive nature of the team’s name. Two months ago, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team’s trademark, calling the name "disparaging to Native Americans." On Thursday, the team officially filed a lawsuit, looking to reverse the decision that was made in June.  

“We believe that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ignored both federal case law and the weight of the evidence, and we look forward to having a federal court review this obviously flawed decision,” Bob Raskopf, trademark attorney for the Washington Redskins, said in a statement.

The ruling by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was more than 20 years in the making, as the first case to dispute the team’s trademark was filed in 1992. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled in favor of the team in 2003, saying there wasn’t enough evidence that the name was too offensive to be protected by a trademark. Three years later, Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc. was filed, which led to the revocation of six federal trademarks related to the Washington Redskins team name.

Despite calls from multiple sides for the Redskins to change their name, Synder appears to have no interest in doing so. In May, he told USA Today that the team’s name would never change. Snyder insists that it shouldn’t be an issue because the name refers to the team, not Native Americans.

“A Redskin is a football player,” Snyder told ESPN’s John Barr. “A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskin fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride. Hopefully winning. And it’s a positive. Taken out of context — you can take things out of context all over the place — but in this particular case, it is what it is. It’s very obvious.”

Washington faced protests on multiple road trips last year, as fans in Minnesota and Green Bay rallied in opposition to the team’s name. A recent poll released by Vox Populi found that 29 percent of NFL fans surveyed consider the name “Redskins” to be offensive, and 19 percent of Washington fans think the name should be changed.

Join the Discussion