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Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985 after a two-year stint covering college hockey for The Anchorage Times in Alaska. From 1985-90 he covered New York City high school sports, then spent five years as Newsday's beat writer for St. John's and Big East basketball. From 1995-2005 he covered the Giants before leaving that beat to become a reporter, columnist and feature writer focused on off-field topics such as sports media and business. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. 30, 2005.

Mike Carey, new CBS analyst, one of the first to take a stand on Washington nickname

Referee Mike Carey calls a penalty during the

Referee Mike Carey calls a penalty during the second quarter of a game between the St. Louis Rams and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, in St. Louis. (Credit: AP / Tom Gannam)

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The Redskins eventually may stop being the Redskins if the controversial nickname begins to affect the bottom line for the team and NFL.

That's how these matters usually are often resolved -- colored not in black or white or red but rather green.

But in the meantime the subject of how to talk about the storied franchise continues to vex everyone involved.

Take Phil Simms, who on Monday told The Associated Press in terms more matter-of-fact than strident that he is leaning against saying "Redskins" in games he analyzes for CBS, including a Week 4 Thursday night game against the Giants.

"I never really thought about it, and then it came up and it made me think about it," he said. "There are a lot of things that can come up in a broadcast, and I am sensitive to this."

That seemingly innocuous take spawned days of reaction and overreaction, in which other announcers weighed in, most notably ESPN's Mike Ditka, who said of the issue to RedskinsHistorian.com: "This is so stupid it's appalling."

Executives mostly are stuck in the middle, not wanting to take a public stand against the league and team but also not wanting to force their most prominent employees to utter a word they are not comfortable using.

Enter the newest kid -- OK, he's 65 but still looks like a kid -- on the NFL media block: Mike Carey, who retired from the NFL as a referee after last season to join CBS as a rules analyst.

The most remarkable story yet related to the controversy centered on Carey, who told The Washington Post at the same media luncheon where Simms spoke Monday that eight years ago he asked the NFL not to assign him to Redskins games.

Sure enough, the Post had discovered he did not work a Redskins game after Week 1 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 the Post.

"Human beings take social stances. And if you're respectful of all human beings, you have to decide what you're going to do and why you're going to do it."

The mechanism by which this happened -- and how many people knew about it -- is murky, and it set a precedent that could leave the NFL vulnerable the next time a social cause and a principled official come along.

It also could leave other officials in an awkward position by not refusing to work Washington games -- much as Simms' position could make other analysts feel pressured to avoid using the word Redskins.

In short, it's a mess, one the NFL has to be hoping is resolved in the near future before this gets any uglier.

Carey said he is "ecstatic" about his CBS gig, one that led him to retire earlier than planned because it was too good to pass up. He said he hopes to "translate the legalese and technical talk, reduce it to where a novice would understand it but it wouldn't bore the highly educated fan."

If a controversial play comes up in a Redskins game, he surely will be asked to comment on it. And he surely will not be calling them the Redskins.

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