By Chris Hoenig
Photo by Shutterstock
Football fans might hear CBS commentators calling the Washington football team the Redskins on the air. Or they might not.
With pressure mounting for team owner Daniel Snyder to change the team’s name—50 U.S. senators have called for the team name to change and the U.S. Patent Office cancelled the team’s trademark because it is “disparaging to Native Americans”—CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said that the network is not going to force its play-by-play callers and analysts to refer to the team by its name, but it also isn’t going to ban it, either.
“Generally speaking, we do not tell our announcers what to say or not say,” McManus told The Hollywood Reporter. “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. 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.”
And the National Football League is not going to force the network’s hand either way. “We don’t dictate to our broadcast partners how they cover the game,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed to Entertainment Weekly.
CBS, which already pays the league $1 billion a year in broadcast rights and fees, is paying an additional $275 million for the rights to broadcast eight Thursday-night football games, starting this year. The deals give the network the rights to air games hosted by AFC teams. Washington plays in the NFC.
The preliminary TV schedule calls for CBS to air four of Washington’s 16 games—including one primetime encounter when it hosts the New York Giants in Week 4’s Thursday-night game. Other Washington games that will air on CBS include Week 2 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Week 7 against the Tennessee Titans and Week 12 at the San Francisco 49ers. FOX will carry the rest of Washington’s games, with the exception of two Monday Night Football games on ESPN and a Week 16 Saturday-night matchup on the league-owned NFL Network. So far, none of those networks have commented on the use of the team’s nickname during game telecasts.
Calls for Snyder to change the team’s name have grown in the past year, with several schools making the decision to drop the name. During last year’s Super Bowl, the National Congress of American Indians released an online commercial, which went viral, saluting famous American Indians and tribes, honoring the character of the American Indian as a people and publicizing that the team name is a slur.