Can the FCC act on Redskins name change?


Washington RedskinsA group of prominent communications experts are calling on Washington DC’s non-voting member of the House to push the FCC for action regarding the use of what many consider to be an offensive name by the city’s NFL football franchise.

The group, which includes former FCC chair Reed Hundt, along with Henry Geller, David Honig, Nicholas Johnson, Blair Levin, Andrew Schwartzman, Sonny Skyhawk and Brent Wilkes, would like the FCC to open a dialog with broadcasters with the aim of getting them to refuse to use the name over the public airwaves and they’re asking Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC) to help make it happen.

“As you know,” they wrote, “the FCC is charged with ensuring that content broadcast over the public airwaves does not offend community standards. Typically broadcasters self-enforce these standards by refraining from the use of indecent language; unfortunately, the name of Washington’s football team has become a part of American culture and most Americans are unaware of the despicable origin and meaning of the term. The term ‘XXXskins’ refers to dead Native Americans brought in to government outposts to collect the $50 bounty for dead Native Americans offered by the government. Surely one must question whether the repeated use of such a term over public airwaves promotes “public interest, convenience, and necessity” as required by law.”

They continued, “Therefore we write to you now to ask you and your congressional colleagues to send a letter to the FCC requesting that it convene an open forum with broadcasters to determine whether broadcasters should self-regulate their use of the term “XXXskins.” While Mr. Snyder may choose to adhere to some unintelligible principle, broadcasters should not for any reason feel compelled to use derogatory names over public airwaves. We emphasize that this discussion between broadcasters and the FCC need not answer any questions of legality, but rather address the issue of self-regulation.”

RBR-TVBR observation: This writer happens to be a Redskins fan going back to the Sonny Jurgensen/Billy Kilmer debate, and of course has used the name countless time without another though. But we can see the point of those who find it offensive.

At first blush, we thought a name change would impose a financial burden on the team, regardless of whether or not it is justified.

However, we wonder is the team would bask in the glow of positive public sentiment if they did make the change? The District of Columbia and Maryland are full of voters that would support such a move, and so is the northern part of Virginia that sits across the Potomac from the city.

On top of that, the fans of the team, known for their fanatical loyalty, would all be spending money to update their team clothing and other paraphernalia. It could actually result in a economic boomlet for the team.

Anyway, maybe we’re wrong, but looking at the issue from a regulatory perspective, we just don’t see the FCC playing a prominent role in this debate.