Former NFL Referee Mike Carey Avoided Officiating Redskins Games over Nickname

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2014

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Many outside the sport of football have criticized the Washington Redskins due to their objectionable nickname. As it turns out, at least one well-respected NFL employee took a stand against the organization beginning in 2006.    

According to Mike Wise of The Washington Post, former NFL official and current CBS rules analyst Mike Carey admitted that he requested he not be assigned to Redskins games because of his strong feelings against the moniker.

"The league respectfully honored my request not to officiate Washington," Carey told Wise. "It happened sometime after I refereed their playoff game in 2006, I think. ... 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."

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 07:  Safety Sean Taylor #21 of the Washington Redskins is ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct by referee Mike Carey #94 in the third quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at Raymon
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Carey officiated Redskins games for 11 years before finally deciding that he no longer wanted to be associated with a nickname that he was offended by, per Wise.

"There was an epiphany for me that it was time," Carey said. "I was never comfortable with the name. I've never said (the team's name) in my games. But then I realized it wasn't an option to be part of them anymore. For me, I just knew. I knew that everybody—everybody—deserves a level of respect."

The fact that the NFL agreed to hold Carey out of Redskins games means that the league was well aware of opposition to the nickname for quite some time. With that said, former Redskins general manager Vinny Cerrato believes the NFL's acceptance of Carey's request may have been a conflict of interest, according to Wise.

"To me, if they let him do that and didn't tell anyone, the league somewhat did take a stand," Cerrato said. "Mike Carey is a great official. If they're letting their officials have a say whether they work certain games or not and the team isn't aware, yes, I think it could be a problem."

While the fairness of such an agreement taking place between Carey and the NFL is certainly debatable, this revelation proves that the negative feelings against the Redskins name is even more deeply rooted than some may have realized.

18 Nov 2001 : Marty Schottenheimer, head coach of the Washington Redskins talks to officials Walt Anderson (L) and Mike Carey during the game against the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. The Redskins won 17-10. DIGITAL IMAGE. Manda
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Carey admitted in Wise's article that he is unsure if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was aware of his request, but Goodell obviously knows about it now. Much of the known and publicized criticism of the Redskins nickname has largely come from outside forces. That Carey had such a close connection to the game itself and decided to take a stand has to hit home even more.

As pointed out by Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead, Carey is the latest in a diverse group of people to speak out against the Redskins:

It can be argued that Carey is more impactful than anyone else since he was in the thick of the action every Sunday for 19 seasons. Carey was a true professional who did his job to the best of his ability, but even he couldn't put his personal feelings aside.

It's fair to wonder if there are more within the NFL who feel the same way as Carey. Now that he has stepped forward, it will be interesting to see if anyone else follows suit.

If they do, then the NFL may have to make a decision on the nickname sooner rather than later.


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