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.”