Technology

FCC Mulls Banning Redskins Name

A petition claims the use of the team name on TV violates indecency regulations.

A Washington Redskins helmet sits on the grass during a preseason football game between the Redskins and Cleveland Browns at FedExField on August 18, 2014 in Landover, Maryland.
TJ Root/Getty Images
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Brendan Sasso
Sept. 30, 2014, 9:22 a.m.

The Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion is weigh­ing wheth­er to ban TV sta­tions from say­ing the name of Wash­ing­ton’s foot­ball team.

A law pro­fess­or filed a pe­ti­tion with the agency earli­er this month, claim­ing that the name “Red­skins” vi­ol­ates fed­er­al rules bar­ring any in­de­cent con­tent on broad­cast tele­vi­sion.

At a press con­fer­ence Tues­day, FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er said he is re­view­ing the fil­ing.

“We will be deal­ing with that is­sue on the mer­its, and we will be re­spond­ing ac­cord­ingly,” Wheel­er said.

The FCC chief said he per­son­ally finds the term of­fens­ive and urged the team to change the name. But he didn’t say wheth­er he thinks it is il­leg­al.

“There are a lot of names and de­scrip­tions that were used for a time that are in­ap­pro­pri­ate today,” he said. “I think the name that is at­trib­uted to the Wash­ing­ton foot­ball club is one of those.”

Amer­ic­an In­di­ans ar­gue that the term is an eth­nic slur and is deeply of­fens­ive.

In his pe­ti­tion to the FCC, George Wash­ing­ton law pro­fess­or John Ban­zhaf urged the agency to ban use of the “ra­cist, ra­cially derog­at­ory word.” The FCC has fined TV sta­tions in the past for air­ing oth­er forms of pro­fan­ity, Ban­zhaf noted.

An FCC rul­ing that the name is “in­de­cent” would put enorm­ous pres­sure on the NFL team to pick a new name.

Earli­er this year, the Pat­ent and Trade­mark Of­fice can­celed the team’s trade­mark, con­clud­ing that it is “dis­par­aging to Nat­ive Amer­ic­ans.”

Red­skins own­er Dan Snyder has re­jec­ted calls to change the team name for years. A Red­skins web­site claims the name “epi­tom­izes all the noble qual­it­ies we ad­mire about Nat­ive Amer­ic­ans.”

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