Another broadcaster is facing a challenge by Native American activists over the use of a name they feel is derogatory, the name used by the NFL’s Washington football team, the Redskins. The Redskin’s name has faced ongoing issues for the owners who have seen decades of requests and demands to change the name. The fight against the use of the Redskins name has spread to broadcast journalism companies who use the name during on-air broadcasts on both television and radio.
John Banzhaf, a public interest law professor, has called the use of the name Redskins as the American Indian equivalent of the N-word. Due to the perceived derogatory nature of the word and the likeness in the team logo, activists from Native American groups across the United States have protested the football team, unsuccessfully demanding a name change by the owner. While the fight has been going on for decades, recently, the fight has become more of a visible issue for the league. Now, the fight against the Redskins name has moved beyond just the NFL organization.
With the broadcast license of Washington D.C.’s WWXX-FM radio station up for renewal this coming December, activists from Native American tribes have launched a legal petition against the station over the use of the Redskins name during broadcasts. The radio station, which is D.C.’s ESPN affiliate, joins similar legal petitions already launched against Los Angeles Fox affiliate KTTV-TV and NBC affiliate, KNBC-TV, also in Los Angeles.
The petitions challenge the use of the Redskins name as a form of profanity and should never be used on-air when talking either about the Washington football team or anything at all. Comparing the use of the Redskins word to other racial slurs, a hard-hitting video has been released that is filled with people from numerous ethnic groups. Over the course of the video, people are showen using racial slurs offensive to their own groups. Every slur, except for Redskins is bleeped out in the video. At the end of the commercial, it is explained that all racial slurs are profane. The emphasis in the advertisement, and the core of the petitions is that just one of those racial slurs, “the R-word”, is widely accepted and tolerated when used on the air and that the people behind the creation of the video want it to change. The activists just want the NFL team to change the name and the logo depicting an American Indian and others to stop using the R-word.
This issue is an ongoing complaint against the NFL and the football team to rename the team. Now the media that continue to refer to the team as the Redskins have been targeted. This is not a petition that is likely just going to disappear after a short time after receiving a major development in support. Eleanor Holmes Norton, United States Congresswoman for Washington D.C. has made a public call to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action against any use of the word Redskins on public airwaves. It is unclear exactly what that action would be, but would likely be a monetary fine similar to the use of profanities on broadcast programing.
Banzhaf feels that other members of Congress may join Congresswoman Norton in her request. This would be a similar move to when they joined with Norton in her request to revoke the Washington Redskin’s trademarks to prevent Redskins merchandise from being sold. The pressure against the NFL and the team ownership appears to be growing daily.
Banzhaf also believes that the Los Angeles stations were focused on due to the fact that the California city contains the most Native Americans in an urban setting and that the licenses for all California television stations are up for renewal this December. Alaska, Oregon and Washington are the next group of stations that may be targeted as their license are due to be renewed in February.
It is not clear if the petitions or the continual pressure against the NFL and the Washington Redskins will change the team name and logo. The name has been the center of controversy for decades. However, targeting companies associated with the league and team may add the needed pressure to win the challenge and force the Washington Redskins to cave in and change the team name.
Commentary by Carl Auer