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Salt Lake Tribune no longer using Washington team name in NFL stories

First Published      Last Updated Oct 31 2013 09:26 am

The San Francisco Chronicle last week became the latest news organization to decide it will refer to Washington, D.C.'s NFL team in stories without using the team name.

Managing editor Audrey Cooper confirmed the change in an email to the Poynter Institute's Andrew Beaujon.

"Our long-standing policy is to not use racial slurs ... except in cases where it would be confusing to the reader to write around it," she wrote in the email to Beaujon. "We are choosing to use another word that accurately describes what we are writing about."

The Salt Lake Tribune made the same choice in September before the NFL season started. Other publications, including the Kansas City Star, Slate and Mother Jones, also have opted not to use Washington's team name, and more certainly will follow.

Members of the Oneida Indian Nation are demanding renewed attention on the issue.

After characterizing a Wednesday meeting with the NFL as disappointing, they requested a meeting with all 32 NFL owners during Super Bowl week to talk about team names. According to an Associated Press story, they hope other team owners and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will pressure Washington owner Daniel Snyder to change Washington's team name.

Ray Halbritter and other Oneida Nation representatives want an amendment to NFL bylaws that would prevent franchises from naming any term that is a racial epithet.

For The Tribune's part, we opted to stop using Washington's team name because we believe in the power and words, and in this case, it's difficult to argue the word is not offensive.

"The R-word is the same as the N-word, or any other insult based on one's skin color ," said copy editor Steve Mohlman, who initiated the change at The Tribune. "It's beyond offensive that anyone would name their team after a term used to oppress and insult ethnic minorities."

No readers objected to the change, and perhaps few even noticed it.

We, like the Chronicle, simply use "Washington" when referring to the team, and that seems to have served well our goal to communicate accurately without perpetuating slurs.