As shocking as it sounds, The Commission could effectively ban the use of the word “Redskins” by broadcasters, based upon a filing by several former FCC commissioners including former FCC Chair Reed Hundt and other communication law experts, if the team’s name isn’t changed, according to a letter sent 4/5 to team owner Dan Snyder. The basically said that using the word “Redskin” on the air is likely to be contrary to federal broadcast law because it constitutes an “indecency” if not an “obscenity,” reported KETK-TV.
The letter from Hundt and 11 other broadcast law experts says the R-word is the most derogatory name a Native American can be called, and is an “unequivocal racial slur” akin to the N-word. They liken the use of “Redskin” to an “obscenity,” which is illegal on the public airwaves in any form, rather than simply an “indecency” which is restricted to certain times of the day.
The letter also noted: “As The Washington Post’s Mike Wise pointed out, ‘America wouldn’t stand for a team called the Blackskins – or the Mandingos, the Brothers, the Yellowskins, insert your ethnic minority here.'”
The tactic of challenging the use of the word “Redskins” before the FCC was conceived by public interest law professor John Banzhaf, whose legal action at the FCC led to the ban on cigarette commercials. He says the concept for challenging stations for racism is based upon a legal complaint he helped file in 1969 against a DC area television station because, like virtually all other stations at the time, it refused to use African Americans in meaningful on-the-air roles.
Chairman Hundt’s letter points out that broadcasters are so concerned about using inappropriate racial language that CBC fired long-time commentator Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder over racially stereotyped remarks about black athletes. Banzhaf notes that Don Imus was suspended for using the racially-charged term “nappy” regarding the hair of some black athletes, and MSNBC’s long-time contributor Pat Buchanan was fired for derogatory racial remarks. More recently, using the phrase “Chick in the Armor” in connection with Asian athlete Jeremy Li led to the firing and suspension of several ESPN employees. Thus broadcasters, as well as viewers and listeners, now recognize that racism on the air is “grossly offensive to members of the public,” argues Banzhaf.
RBR-TVBR observation: This is fairly ridiculous in that it would be almost impossible for broadcasters to air Redskins games while the team kept the name–one slip-up and the station or network is fined? If the team’s name is indeed deemed racist (and it just may be), then go after the team with a lawsuit, not the broadcast rights holders. As well, the way the team’s logo is used doesn’t seem to be racist. If nothing else, it recalls the strength, heritage and spirit of Native Americans.