The Washington Post created some controversy this week by polling 504 self-identifying Native American adults regarding whether they are bothered by the local NFL team’s name. But the Post wants everyone to know its fundamental view of the name hasn’t changed.
“We still consider the word to be a slur,” the Editorial Board writes, “and we will still do our best to avoid it.”
Although acknowledging the result of the key poll question as “overwhelming,” the Editorial Board found “noteworthy” the fact that more than half of those who responded had heard little or nothing about the controversy, and that 21 percent who replied found the word “disrespectful.” (The Editorial Board doesn’t address the concern expressed by the Native American Journalists Association that more than half of the respondents are not tribal citizens, which possibly means that they aren’t truly Native American.)
The newspaper’s opinion regarding the name likely won’t alter criticism of the newspaper’s decision to open for public debate a question that, from the Editorial Board’s perspective, has only one right answer. Indeed, if the newspaper believes that the term is a slur, why ask members of the group it targets whether the use of that slur bothers them?
As it stands, the Post seems to be trying to have it both ways, placating those who support the name with a poll that justifies its ongoing use and then patronizing the opponents of the name with an opinion that the name still shouldn’t be used. If the Post truly believes the name shouldn’t be used, the Post shouldn’t be using it in any context — and especially not in a way that gives legitimacy to a debate that the Editorial Board claims to regard as illegitimate.