WILLIAMSVILLE, NY - The Bee Group Newspapers, publisher of several suburban papers with roughly 45,000 paid subscribers in Western New York, says it will no longer use the word "Redskins" to identify sports teams at any level of competition.
"I've never said to anyone, 'I'm going to interview some redskins fGor a story," said the newspaper group's managing editor David F. Sherman.
According to Sherman, the decision was made after six weeks of staff discussion on the topic.
"It was a corporate decision from the publisher on down, to say we just don't feel comfortable using this term," Sherman told WGRZ-TV.
The decision will affect how the paper refers to Lancaster High School teams in particular, which have used the nickname Redskins for 67 years.
"We'll just refer to them as the Lancaster football team or the Lancaster field hockey team. I know that (nickname) is something that is very much a part of that community and I understand that, but things change...you're talking about someone's skin color as their ethnicity. That's their nickname."
Sherman insists the decision is not part of any effort by Bee Newspapers to sway the district on a decision it may have to make some day...whether to keep the nickname, or change it, as several other schools across the country have done.
"We're not telling anybody, 'you better change it or else'. We're not giving them an ultimatum. We're just telling the community we're no longer going to buy into that nickname or that mascot."
Two On Your Side placed a call to the superintendent of Lancaster Schools Michael Vallely, which was promptly returned instead by a district spokesperson, who told us that while the superintendent respected the paper's decision, its decision didn't rise to the level of importance for him to speak to us about it.
As for the overriding issue of the nickname, spokesperson Pat Burgio told us the district, "continues to pull together as much information as possible, so that at when it comes time for the community to be involved in the decision making process, we've done our homework in educating them."
So far, that has included a section on the district's web sitededicated to the matter, with links posted mostly to news articles on the controversy over the NFL Washington Redskins.
Burgio also said no time-frame has been established for when Lancaster plans to --as she put it-- "involve the community in the decision making process".
However, at Lancaster High School on Wednesday, passersby could still observe an electronic sign that, by outward appearances, made it appear changes may not be coming anytime soon.
Along with other messages being flashed, there were two regarding the athletics program which read "Go Redskins" and "Good Luck Skins".
"If the school district doesn't make a decision that's up to the school district," said Sherman. "But for our sake, when we cover that school district we've just decided we're not going to buy into that (Redskins nickname) anymore."
Ultimately, the Lancaster School Board, comprised of seven members elected by the public, would likely make any decision on the nickname. Two On Your Side left phone messages for six board members Wednesday morning, however only one had returned our call by that evening.
"This is not a cut and dried issue," said board president Kenneth Graber. "There are people with feelings on both sides, and we need to find a way to not only let them express them, but to tell us why they feel the way they do."
Graber predicted the board may launch some sort of process to get an earnest discussion going within "the next two months" but was uncertain how it would manifest itself.
"Personally, I'd like to start with a community forum to allow people to speak their minds, but the board will have to decide how to best do that and we'll probably be doing that soon."