WASHINGTON - Retired NFL referee Mike Carey, the first African-American referee assigned to the Super Bowl, did not work games involving the Washington Redskins after 2006 because of his belief the team's name is a racial slur.
Carey, who began his career as a referee in 1995 when he was promoted from side judge, told the Washington Post in remarks published on Wednesday that he asked the league not to be appointed to Redskins games.
"The league respectfully honored my request not to officiate Washington," Carey was quoted as saying. "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."
Carey, one of the league's most respected officials and who was the referee of the Super Bowl following the 2007 season, said he never went to Commissioner Roger Goodell with his request, but he did talk instead with the person who assigns officials to games. He refused to name the person.
"Human beings take social stances," he said. "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 viewpoint is gathering steam as a host of writers and commentators have vowed to no longer use the name Redskins.
A U.S. Patent and Trademark Office administrative tribunal voted in June to cancel the Redskins' six trademarks because the panel considered the name and logo disparaging to Native Americans.
The Redskins have appealed the decision.
"I know that if a team had a derogatory name for African Americans, I would help those who helped extinguish that name," said Carey, who left the NFL in June. "I have quite a few friends who are Native Americans.
"And even if I didn't have Native American friends, the name of the team is disrespectful."
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Eric Beech)