We begin, and end tonight with even more news regarding Washington’s NFL team, none of which includes activity on the field such as Robert Griffin III possibly losing his starting job.
In the past week television commentators Phil Simms, Tony Dungy and Mike Ditka have all chimed in on using the team’s name being used on telecasts. Simms and Dungy hint they will not say the name on TV while Ditka says he is sick of PC nonsense.
Then came the disclosure of Mike Carey, a long-time NFL referee who has retired and will now work with CBS as a rules analyst. Carey claims that when he was still a referee, he asked out of officiating Washington’s games starting in 2006 over the name issue. He further claims that the league approved his request.
That makes one wonder how many other referees out of the 17 officiating crews also ducked out of calling Washington games? Anyone who has not called a ‘Skins game in recent years is under immediate suspicion.
I am not completely buying Carey’s story. His eye-opening comments came in advance of his television debut on CBS’s Oakland Raiders/Green Bay Packers telecast last Friday.
One of Carey’s signature moments wearing the stripes was his ejection of Washington’s Sean Taylor after he spat at Tampa Bay’s Michael Pittman during a playoff game following the 2005 season. Carey would call one more Washington game, the team’s season opener in 2006. Meanwhile, Sean Taylor was tragically gunned down in his home in November of 2007.
You do the math: 17 officiating crews means on average each crew calls each team once per year. The top crews obviously earn marquee assignments, so there are cases where a crew will work a random team two to three times in a season and others not at all.
It is conceivable Carey’s crew did not get a Washington assignment for the rest of the 2006 season and the first half of 2007, before Taylor’s death. Maybe the Carey crew had a Washington assignment late in 2007 in the immediate aftermath, and he chose to separate himself from the Taylor situation as the mourning process played out.
My theory is that Carey continued to decline Washington assignments, and possibly at some point between 2007 and 2013 he decided to make the nickname an issue. My take is that this is still more about Sean Taylor than about the team name.
After all, referees rarely say a team’s name. It is always “Holding, offense,” or “pass interference defense” or “illegal block, receiving team.” When they do identify a squad it is universally “timeout, Green Bay,” etc.
It appears none of this will keep Carey out of the CBS booth for Washington’s Thursday Night game against the Giants on Sep. 25. So I guess taking a stand only goes so far.
The much larger issue is how the name issue is now overshadowing the franchise. There were protests last November when Washington visited Minnesota for a Thursday night game. Washington will travel to Minnesota again this year to play in Vikings’ temporary home at the University of Minnesota. The school is already making plans to prevent any reference to the visiting team’s name for promotional use.
Washington also does not appear on NBC’s Sunday Night schedule this season. That is likely a good thing after seasoned teleprompter writer Bob Costas went on a halftime diatribe against the name during a Washington/Dallas telecast last year.
And there are more stories in the media loop: A youth team in the New York area changed its name from Redskins to Bears and the Washington Post announced the team name will not appear in editorial columns. Which is interesting, considering football coverage is traditionally found in the sports section.
The point is Dan Snyder, Roger Goodell and the National Football League no longer have a choice. How much have we heard just in the preseason? The protests have been amped up, and it will only get worse if Washington were to qualify for the playoffs.
The ultimate nightmare would be if somehow Washington won the NFC and appeared in the Super Bowl, and the word “Redskins” gets painted in an end zone. The world might blow up, never mind the name was painted in end zones of four previous Super Bowls in a previous generation without outcry.
But this is a different time. Even the University of North Dakota reluctantly relinquished its Fighting Sioux moniker and now compete with just an interlocking logo, leaving students, fans and alumni to fill in the blanks and wear old apparel.
Americans (as a Sporting News article suggested) would be a logical choice, and would allow the franchise to continue to honor Native Americans. The day Dan Snyder finally relents, his proud franchise can finally again move forward.