2013-10-05 21:55:12 - WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 5, 2013): President Barack Obama has greatly multiplied the growing pressure on owner Dan Snyder to abandon the name "Redskins" for his NFL team.
Obama said today: “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it. . . . Native Americans feel pretty strongly about it. And I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have about these things."
On Monday, the NFL meeting in Washington. DC, will face a protest from the Oneida Indian Nation. The NFL Commissioner has already changed his prior stance, and now supports change, saying that if only one person is offended, “we have to listen.”
Both have correctly framed the issue, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf. The issue is not whether the word offends most people, or whether most people want the name changed, but rather whether it is a racially derogatory word which offends a substantial number of American Indians.
That is also the standard which is being applied to determine whether the word should lose its trademark protection, and whether or not the unnecessary and repetitive use of the word by licensed broadcasters serves the "public interest, convenience, and necessity" as federal law demands.
A group of former FCC Commissions and other experts says it does not, and is considering a legal attack on the continued use of the word by broadcasters.
Fans at least one “Redskins” game have already been met by anti-“Redskins” picketers, and more picketing is planned for other games in the future.
A growing number of sports commentators have speculated, from the fact that GOP spin master Frank Luntz recently conducted focus group sessions with fans and others, that change is being considered.
Interestingly, especially for a professional who knows how important a single word or word change can be, many of the questions and ensuing discussions concerned the team's current name, and the growing objections to it. If, as Snyder proclaimed, he will "NEVER" change the name, it seems pointless and even potentially dangerous (since the results could be subpoenaed for use against him in the trademark litigation) for him to be conducting focus groups and surveys over this very issue, says Banzhaf, who has been a leader in fighting against the continued use of the name, especially on the air.
Almost a dozen media and sports writers have already stopped using the name, and a recent report documents the intense psychological harm the use of the word causes to children. “All of this growing pressure will soon reach a critical mass for change,” argued Banzhaf.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
2000 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418