Time to empty out the notebook again as we hit the summer months. Here are a few of the scattered thoughts kicking around the ol’ noggin this week:

— The Seattle Times followed some other newspapers recently and banned the use of the officially licensed name of Washington, D.C.’s National Football League franchise, the Redskins.

I applaud sports editor Don Shelton for his conviction. He and his staff set forth a compelling argument for its removal from their pages. They were clear in their reasoning, and steadfast in their resolve to follow through with their promise.

Many applauded the move. Many others decried it as another step in the wrong direction as the country becomes “too politically correct,” whatever that means. (You can’t be “too” correct. You are either right or wrong.)

But is it the newspaper’s decision to make in the first place?

We can debate the name all we want. People reading this will have undoubtedly have differing opinions. And that’s fine.

But this week at the Associated Press Sports Editors’ conference in Washington, D.C., Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) made an interesting point when asked about the situation, first bemoaning the fact that the patent office got involved at all.

“I don’t think it’s a role for the patent office, honest to God,” he said. “I kind of thought the patent office was supposed to be involved in patents. But I do believe if the Native American community views this as offensive, then it’s offensive.”

Several members of Native American tribes have spoken up against the name and have labeled it derogatory. McCain then made an important distinction, saying that while he and many others believe the name should be changed, ultimately, that decision falls on team owner Daniel Snyder, and to a lesser degree the NFL.

“So my view, if I were the owner of the team, I’d call them together and have a dialogue with them and I would probably change the name,” McCain said.

But, he also said, he’s not the owner, and it’s not the government’s job to force Snyder to change the name.

Nor is it the media’s. While writers can opine about the change, and decry Snyder and his stubborn resistance, ultimately the Washington Redskins are an NFL team on which we report. Our job as media is to relay information, inform and, sometimes, entertain. It is not our job to create the news, or become part of the story.

— One day after McCain spoke to APSE, the organization honored Wendell Smith posthumously with the Red Smith Award, given annually by the organization to an individual who has made “major contributions to sports journalism.”

Wendell Smith’s honor was long overdue. A pioneer in the fight for equality for African-American athletes, he is best known for chronicling Jackie Robinson’s journey as he broke baseball’s color barrier. His story was recently recounted in part in the movie ’42.’

A Detroit native, Smith worked first for the Pittsburgh Courier. It was while working here that he was assigned to follow Robinson. He is credited with recommending Robinson to Dodgers GM Branch Rickey, who was looking for the right player to move forward with his plan to integrate baseball.

Smith moved on to the Chicago Herald-American, and then to television with WGN while maintaining a print presence with the Chicago Sun-Times.

He died at 58 in 1972, one month after Robinson passed away.

Initially denied entry into the Baseball Writers Association of America because he worked for a paper with black ownership, Smith was eventually admitted, and came full circle in 1994 when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Friday’s honor from APSE only adds to the legacy of a true pioneer, not only of sports writing, but of civil rights in the United States.

— We’re pretty lucky in this business.

Sure, the hours are long. Many times, we miss events scheduled on “normal” days off (read: weekends) because there are no such things in our line of work. Holidays and family functions are often celebrated on adjoining days or even weeks, just to accommodate a big game or series of games.

And no one will ever accuse someone marrying a journalist of being a gold-digger.

But we are lucky.

We are lucky because we have the privilege of meeting some phenomenal people along the way, from athletes and coaches and athletic administrators, to parents of athletes, friends and fanatics, and especially colleagues — within our own organizations or others. These bonds, more than anything, reward us for our hard work and dedication to a rapidly evolving craft.

It’s with sadness, admiration — and a bit of jealousy — that we in the Maine sports writing family this week bid adieu to one of our own, as the Kennebec Journal’s Gary Hawkins parks his pen and powers down his computer for the last time.

The notion of competing tooth and nail with our “competitors” in Maine is something with which I have never been familiar in my time (14 years) at the Sun Journal. Ultimately, we cover local athletes doing extraordinary things. We cover trends, breaking news and look in depth at issues, both serious and playful. And we do so for the readers. It’s a mutual goal, and we share mutual respect.

Hawk figured that out long before I ate my first crayon.

As he bids central Maine farewell, we join his colleagues at the KJ and Sentinel in wishing him a long and happy retirement.

Justin Pelletier is sports editor. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JPell915.


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