While Peter King’s Monday Morning QB site has pledged to simply refer to Washington’s NFL franchise as well, Washington’s NFL franchise, ESPN ombudsman Robert Lipsyte writes that we shouldn’t realistically expect his network to follow suit. Prior to addressing ESPN’s non-coverage of the Hugh Douglas/Michael Smith incident, and lavishing praise upon the returning Keith Olbermann, Lipsyte concludes, “a gesture as aggressive as attacking a famous, long-standing team is antithetical to the ESPN business model.” Even if, y’know, it’s the right thing to do.
Daniel Snyder is a business associate (his Washington radio station is an ESPN affiliate), and the NFL is an important partner. ESPN is a major media corporation with a parent company (Disney) and shareholders. I am still in the early process of exploring the depths and facets of ESPN, but one thing is clear — it is an entertainment company trying to maintain a vigorous journalistic presence. This is no simple matter. This so-called “bifurcation” — business side and journalism side — requires respect and mindfulness.
“I’m from the D.C. area and a fan all my life,” says Rob King, senior vice president of content for ESPN print and digital media, “and I’ve thought about the Generals and the Statesmen as names, even George Washington replacing the Indian on the logo. At ESPN, the only thing that really matters is serving fans. NFL fans think of the Washington, D.C.-area franchise as the Redskins. So that informs how we’ll serve them across news, commentary, scores and fantasy coverage. We will use the term Redskins so long as fans expect this to be the nomenclature that drives their rooting experience. So hail to ‘em.”
The most sensible ongoing strategy I’ve heard is from Patrick Stiegman, vice president and editor-in-chief of ESPN.com, who said: “To simply ignore the nickname in our coverage seems like nothing more than grandstanding. We can use the name of the team, but our best service to fans is to report the hell out of the story, draw attention to the issue and cover all aspects of the controversy.”