- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Washington Redskins will open training camp in Richmond Thursday with an identity crisis.

No one wants to identify them.

CBS Sports President Sean McManus — a business partner with the NFL — told The Hollywood Reporter last week that his announcers will have the option of not using the name of one of the franchises of its business partner.

“Generally speaking, we do not tell our announcers what to say or not to say,” McManus said. “Up to this point, it has not been a big issue for us. Last year, it was simmering. Now it’s reaching a hotter level. But we probably will not end up dictating to our announcers whether they say Redskins or don’t say Redskins.

Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports, speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports, speaks at the Council ... more >

“We leave that up to them and our production team. There are times when something becomes important enough that we talk to them, and between now and the start of football season we’ll decide what is the right thing to do.”

McManus doubled down on that position the very next day — right in front of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — on a panel before a group of television writers promoting the network’s new Thursday Night Football deal with the NFL, restating his position. Goodell responded by saying, “We don’t dictate to our partners what they say. We don’t give them that kind of direction.”

This is now the name-changing debate in the corporate boardroom. It’s not a sponsor, but it is a business partner. And Goodell’s public comments distancing himself from the CBS position are a sign that perhaps the NFL is willing to let this pot simmer to a boil — leaving owner Daniel Snyder no choice but to change the name.

Does anyone really believe that the NFL can’t dictate to its business partners that they have to use the name of one of its franchises? That, in essence, it would take the side of CBS football announcers over one of its own?

This winter, CBS, in addition to its Sunday NFL games, paid $250 million for the rights to broadcast eight Thursday night games. Upon announcing the deal, McManus declared, “The NFL is the most powerful programming in television.”

Apparently, not as powerful as any broadcasters who, after announcing Redskins games throughout their career, may have suddenly decided they can’t live with themselves anymore and will no longer use the name.

This just heaps another load on the mountain of hypocrisy about the Redskins name issue that truly offends me — the outrage expressed by people who didn’t care a lick about the problems facing the Native American community before someone told them they should be offended by the name, and won’t care a lick after the name is changed; that the name has been declared offensive, despite the polls from the general public and Native Americans that say otherwise; and now, organizations abdicating their responsibility to set ethical and responsible policies for their employees.

In other words, if CBS believes the name is offensive, don’t use the name. Take a position. Don’t leave it up to your announcers, who will now be on the firing line in the name change debate.

People will be keeping score, and taking notes. Will Phil Simms use the name? If so, does that make him a racist? Will the District’s own James Brown — perhaps the most respected figure in sports television — use the name? Will that make him morally superior to Bill Cowher if the latter decides to use the name Redskins?

Like I’ve said, the Redskins name has, fairly or unfairly, become a national litmus test for decency.

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