To the Editors of The Blue & Gray Press:
We are writing to ask that the newspaper cease using the team name and logo for the Washington NFL team in its coverage of professional sports.
This is not a controversial request. The United States Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the team’s trademark registration in June, with a clear message that it is “disparaging.” The Federal Communications Commission Chair has called the team name “offensive and derogatory.” Forty-nine members of the United States Congress have written to the NFL, asking that the team change its name and logo because “racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports.” Both the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association have called for the retirement of team names that are disrespectful of Native Americans, as have the NAACP and various religious organizations. Importantly, the National Congress of American Indians has called for Washington and other teams to stop the use of demeaning names or logos.
Media outlets have also responded to the concern raised about the team’s name. CBS, NBC and ESPN have given their professional commentators and analysts discretion to choose not to use the team’s official name, even when announcing games, and both television and radio announcers have since declared that they will no longer use it. The Seattle Times, the Kansas City Star, the San Francisco Chronicle, Slate magazine, the New York Daily News and the editorial page of The Washington Post, among other major, mainstream publications, have made the decision to no longer use the Washington team name.
The stand against the offensive team name has also touched colleges. To name just two examples, the University of Minnesota, whose stadium will host a game between the Minnesota Vikings and Washington this fall, requested that the Washington team wear throwback uniforms without the team logo for the game, asked that no apparel or fan paraphernalia with the name or image be sold during the game and called for the public address announcer to avoid all use of the team name. Closer to home, the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism’s Capital News Service terminated use of the Washington team name last year.
This is not about censorship or oft-ridiculed “political correctness;” it is about taking an ethical stand against the denigration of persons or groups, which is vitally important for an official publication of the University of Mary Washington, an institution that takes pride in the civil rights legacy of James Farmer, Jr. and where the Statement of Guiding Principles on Diversity and Inclusion adopted by the Board of Visitors says that we are dedicated to creating “a climate of acceptance” and to taking up our “responsibility to be a model of fairness and equal opportunity, providing intellectual and institutional leadership regarding diversity issues and initiatives.”
“The right of every individual to be treated with dignity and respect at all times” is one of the four core principles of UMW’s Statement of Community Values and Behavioral Expectations, also approved by our BOV.
The purpose of this letter is not to open a tired debate in these pages about whether or not the Washington team name and logo are abusive. It is to ask the editors of The Blue and Gray Press to support UMW’s shared values of respect and inclusivity by avoiding use of a name and logo that are, indubitably, offensive to many persons, of all races and creeds. Stand on the right side of history.
Professor Mara Scanlon
with Professors Krystyn Moon, Marie McAllister, Dan Hubbard, Amanda Rutstein, Anand Rao, Warren Rochelle, Chris Foss, Shumona Dasgupta, Debra Schleef, Leslie Martin, Farhang Rouhani, Tim Crippen, John Broome, Eric Lorentzen, Mary Beth Mathews, Dave Kolar, Joe Romero, Tracy Citeroni, Mindy Erchull, Jason Davidson, Jon Pineda, Colin Rafferty, Will Mackintosh, Mary Rigsby, Laura Mentore, Chris McBride, Angela Pitts, Craig Vasey, Jackie Gallagher, Andréa Livi Smith, Danny Tweedy, Judith Parker, Jessy Ohl, Ben LaBreche, Meghan Conley, Kevin McCluskey, Doug Sanford, Gregg Stull, Janie Lee, Suzanne Sumner, Mehdi Aminrazavi, Dave Stahlman, Dawn Bowen, Catherine Walker, Luke Johnson, Connie Smith, Kate Haffey, Elizabeth Wade, Andrew Dolby, Tim Waltonen, Eric Bonds, Terrell Taylor