CBS hosted its first Thursday night NFL football game game involving Washington, a team embroiled in controversy recently because of people speaking out about their team nickname’s offensiveness. The network’s official position is to leave it up to individual broadcasters whether they want to say the name or not — though on network promos, the name could both be seen and heard — and nearly every commentator, from Jim Nantz to Bill Cowher to Deion Sanders, said the nickname during the pre-game show.
However, commentator Phil Simms said two months ago and reiterated this week that he would not be saying the name during his broadcast. Not because he is taking sides, but because he feels sympathy for the people it offends and therefore has simply chosen not to use it.
Washington fans were not fans of this decision, with one even going so far to start a petition to have Simms removed from any future team broadcasts. And on Twitter, fans were displeased with Simms’ ability to avoid the name during the game:
- “Hey Phil Simms, you are paid to do a job covering the NFL. If you don’t like one of the team names you are paid to cover, quit”
- “.@CBSSports Feel free to tell #PhilSimms to duct tape his mouth shut for the entire game”
- “.@CBSSports I just can’t believe that you are letting Phil Simmsget away with this. You are just weak people.”
Not all the fan opinions were negative, however. One user writes, “I applaud Phil Simms for not saying Washington’s name today on the broadcast” and another says, “So far, Phil Simms and Jim Nantz are giving a clinic on how easy it is to broadcast a Washinton NFL game without using team’s racist name.” Note — Nantz has used the nickname a couple of times but does seem to be making an effort not to.
Will Simms slip up? Odds are he will, which he openly admits. He used it earlier this year during a broadcast of an Atlanta-Tampa Bay game without even realizing it. “It is a habit,” Simms tells the AP. “I played for 15 years [for the Giants] and they were a bitter rival. There is a chance I could slip.”
But so far, as of the end of the first quarter, Simms has not said the Washington team nickname.
UPDATE: Despite the growing annoyance and harsh words (including death threats) about Simms on Twitter, he has not yet said the Washington nickname mid-way through the 3rd quarter.