San Francisco Chronicle confirms: It will stop using the term 'Redskins'

The San Francisco Chronicle will stop referring to Washington, D.C.'s professional football team as the "Redskins," Managing Editor Audrey Cooper tells Poynter in an email. "Words are powerful, and so is how we choose to use them," Cooper writes.

Mike Florio reported Tuesday that such a decision "was communicated internally on Friday, October 25." Cooper confirms that, saying one of the paper's sports columnists proposed the move.

In her email to Poynter, Cooper explains the Chronicle's reasoning:

Our long-standing policy is to not use racial slurs — and make no mistake, “redskin” is a slur — except in cases where it would be confusing to the reader to write around it. For example, we will use the team name when referring to the controversy surrounding its use.

Absent the media attention on this issue, I doubt any reader of the San Francisco Chronicle or would have noticed our choice to use to use “Washington” instead of the team name. We are choosing to use another word that accurately describes what we are writing about.

We are not the first media outlet to make this change, and I know we will not be the last.

In fact, several publications and journalists have stopped using it. Peter King of Sports Illustrated said in September he would stop using it, and he wrote a feature about the team's offensive coordinator that never once mentions its nickname.

Most of the publications that have announced they will no longer use the term are small and not particularly sports-focused, like Slate, Mother Jones and Washington City Paper (where I used to work and which Redskins owner Dan Snyder once sued over an article he didn't read).

Neither the Buffalo News’ Tim Graham nor The Kansas City Star (under normal circumstances) will use the term, either. Earlier in October, Bob Costas commented on the name during halftime of "Sunday Night Football," saying the term "can't possibly honor a heritage, or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term."

The NFL plans to meet Wednesday with representatives of the Oneida Nation tribe about the Redskins' name. Snyder wrote in an open letter to fans that he will not change the name. Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins parodied the letter, writing as Snyder:

When I think about the old-fashioned epithet my team is named after, I consider what it stands for. As some of you may know, it was given to us 81 years ago by an avowed segregationist who liked to play Plantation Owner and Pickaninny. He saw an opportunity to cash in on the public fascination with Indians, the popularity of dime-store pulp and westerns such as the 1932 film “Ride ’Em Cowboy.” It was all a marketing gimmick.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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