BY BARRY WILNER, AP PRO FOOTBALL WRITER
NEW YORK (AP) — Two influential NFL voices – including CBS lead analyst Phil Simms, who will handle Washington’s Week 4 game – said Monday they likely won’t use the term “Redskins” when discussing the franchise.
“My very first thought is it will be Washington the whole game,” Simms told The Associated Press on Monday.
Simms will work the Thursday night package the network acquired this season and will have Giants-Redskins on Sept. 25. He isn’t taking sides in the debate over whether Washington’s nickname is offensive or racist. But he says he is sensitive to the complaints about the name, and his instincts now are to not use Redskins in his announcing.
“I never really thought about it, and then it came up and it made me think about it,” Simms added. “There are a lot of things that can come up in a broadcast, and I am sensitive to this.”
His broadcast partner, Jim Nantz, says it is “not my job to take a stance.”
NBC’s Tony Dungy, one of the most prominent voices in the league as a Super Bowl-winning coach and now as a studio commentator, plans to take the same route as Simms.
“I will personally try not to use Redskins and refer to them as Washington,” Dungy said in an email. “Personal opinion for me, not the network.”
CBS is allowing its announcers to decide on their own whether to call the team the Redskins. So is Fox, which handles the NFC and will televise most of Washington’s games.
“As long as their nickname is the Redskins, I ll continue to call them the Redskins,” said Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, the lead analyst for Fox.
NBC does not have any Redskins games scheduled – the late-season flex scheduling could change that – but the team certainly will be mentioned on its NFL telecasts this season. The network said “For all of our sports properties, our on-air commentators have full discretion to reference participating teams by their city/region/state name, team nickname or both.”
ESPN said in a statement: “We use the marks and nicknames as utilized by the teams, leagues and conferences we cover.”
The Redskins’ nickname was the subject of a halftime essay by NBC’s Bob Costas last October when Washington played Dallas on Sunday night. In part, Costas said, “Think for a moment about the term `Redskins,’ and how it truly differs from all the others. Ask yourself what the equivalent would be, if directed toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or members of any other ethnic group. When considered that way, `Redskins’ can’t possibly honor a heritage, or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent.'”
Several CBS announcers, appearing at a network news conference about its NFL coverage, said they will use the nickname.
“That’s the name of their team and that’s what I am going to use,” said Boomer Esiason, a member of the CBS studio crew and also an analyst for Westwood One on Monday night games.
Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots will call the second game of the season when the Redskins host Jacksonville. Dedes said he will seek direction from the entire broadcast crew on using the nickname.
“I sympathize with people who may be offended by the name,” Dedes said. “
Wilcots said he will use “Washington Redskins as long as that is what they are called. That’s their official name and I used it last year, two years ago, 10 years ago.”
Rich Gannon, the NFL’s MVP in 2002 with the Raiders, spent one season playing for the Redskins. He now announces games for CBS.
“There are so many Redskins fans that take great pride in the name,” Gannon said. “(Owner) Daniel Snyder has said he’s talked and visited with (many) American Indian nations who are supportive of the name. And there are those who oppose it who are being heard. It’s an important topic.”