2013-09-16 14:06:57 - WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 16, 2013): With pressure continuing to mount against what the Washington Post just termed, in an editorial condemning the team’s name, a "racist slur," there is a growing chorus among the media speculating that the "Redskins" may finally be at least considering a change of their name.
Yesterday, in what may well become a regular event, angry American Indians staged a protest against the name "Redskins" at an NFL game at Lambeau Field. They were able to stage their protest on property belonging to the Green Bay Packers, apparently with the team's permission.
Just days before, the NFL abruptly changed its position from one supporting the team's name to one seriously questioning it, and suggesting that the league may take appropriate action if necessary.
Only a few months ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote that "The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context.”
Yet, just days ago, he signaled a major change of
heart, saying: “We have to do everything that’s necessary to make sure that we’re representing the franchise in a positive way . . . and that if we are offending one person, we need to be listening and making sure that we’re doing the right things to try to address that.”
And ever since spin master Frank Luntz was hired to use both focus groups and surveys to see how people feel about the “Redskins” name, more than a dozen media outlets have begun to speculate whether owner Dan Snyder, despite his prior protests, is at very least considering changing the team’s name. If he’s not even willing to consider it, they ask, why are these kinds of questions even being asked.
These developments, and some yet to come, apparently led Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton to predict: “The legal handwriting is on the wall, and Goodell’s statement makes clear that this issue has become troublesome to the National Football League.” In this statement she was probably referring to two additional pressures which – among others – are likely to be added very soon.
For one, the D.C. City Council is preparing to adopt a resolution not only condemning the team name as racist and derogatory, but also asking DC-area radio and TV stations to refrain from unnecessarily using it on the air where it impacts impressionable children.
At the same time, a group of broadcasting experts – including a former Chairman of the FCC, several former commissioners and staff, and others – having already determined that "Redskins" is an "unequivocal racial slur," and warning that its deliberate, repeated and unnecessary use by broadcasters may violate federal broadcast law, is considering how to prevent stations for using the word, particularly during prime time, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who first advanced a plan to use broadcast law to attack the use of "Redskins,” based upon his legal earlier challenge to a station’s license because of its alleged racism.
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)
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