While debate about the name of Washington's NFL team has heated up significantly the past few years, one man associated with the league has been silently protesting since 2007.
That man is Mike Carey, who recently retired after a 19-year career as an NFL referee. According to Washington Post columnist Mike Wise, Carey asked out of Redskins assignments because of his disdain for the team's name. He didn't work a preseason or regular-season Washington game, home or away, since the opening week of the 2006 season.
“It just became clear to me that to be in the middle of the field, where something disrespectful is happening, was probably not the best thing for me,” Carey told Wise.
Carey was one of the more distinguished officials during his time in the league, and in 2008 he was named with Ed Hochuli as the best referee in the game in an ESPN coaches poll. That same year he became the first African-American referee to work a Super Bowl.
Carey told Wise he didn't make the request directly to league commissioner Roger Goodell, instead he spoke with a person involved with officiating schedules (he would not reveal a name). He didn't know if Goodell or anyone within Washington's organization was even familiar with his request.
“I think everybody has to look inside themselves and decide what is the right thing for them," Carey told Wise. “In America, we’ve learned that respect is the most important thing that you have. I learned it from my parents, my schools, from my faith. And when you learn there’s something that might not be as respectful as you like, when you come to terms with it, you have to do something about it.”
In a telling sign of just how polarizing this debate has become, shortly before Wise's column made its rounds another story was published that detailed former Bears coach Mike Ditka's strong opposition to the Redskins changing their name.
Ditka told RedskinsHistorian.com that he doesn't understand the "stink" over the supposedly derogatory name.
“It’s so much [expletive] it’s incredible," Ditka, now an ESPN analyst, said. "We’re going to let the liberals of the world run this world. It was said out of reverence, out of pride to the American Indian. Even though it was called a Redskin, what are you going to call them, a Proudskin? This is so stupid it's appalling, and I hope that owner keeps fighting for it and never changes it, because the Redskins are part of an American football history, and it should never be anything but the Washington Redskins. That’s the way it is."
Carey will work for CBS this season as a rules commentator.