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Bob Costas: Redskins Name Undeniably a ‘Slur’

NBC Sports anchor parses name controversy during 'Sunday Night Football'

NBC Sports anchor Bob Costas weighed in forcefully Sunday on the controversy over the nature of the Washington Redskins’ name, which has stirred debate amid the  NFL team’s refusal to change its moniker.

In his half-time essay segment during NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” telecast of the Redskins-Dallas Cowboys game, Costas parsed the uproar over the Redskins and other sports franchise names that have been seen as insensitive in the modern era to various minority groups.

He noted that some teams have adjusted their names over the year’s in light of modern-day sensitivities, including other teams dubbed “Redskins,” a derogatory term for Native Americans.

Costas, an influential voice in the sports world, acknowledged that the name is used with “benign” intent in the present day by the team and its owner, Daniel Snyder. But he left no doubt about his reasoning on why there is a public campaign to pressure the team to change the name.

“Think for a moment about the term ‘Redskins,’ and how it truly differs from all the others.  Ask yourself what the equivalent would be, if directed toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or members of any other ethnic group,” Costas said.

“When considered that way, ‘Redskins’ can’t possibly honor a heritage, or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term.  It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent. It is fair to say that for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended. But, if you take a step back, isn’t it clear to see how offense “might” legitimately be taken?”

Here is a full transcript of Costas’ remarks, provided by NBC:

With Washington playing Dallas here tonight, it seems like an appropriate time to acknowledge the ongoing controversy about the name “Redskins.”

Let’s start here. There is no reason to believe that owner Daniel Snyder, or any official or player from his team, harbors animus toward Native Americans or wishes to disrespect them. This is undoubtedly also true of the vast majority of those who don’t think twice about the longstanding moniker. And in fact, as best can be determined, even a majority of Native Americans say they are not offended.

But, having stipulated that, there’s still a distinction to be made. Objections to names like “Braves,” “Chiefs,” “Warriors,” and the like strike many of us as political correctness run amok. These nicknames honor, rather than demean. They are pretty much the same as “Vikings,” “Patriots,” or even “Cowboys.” And names like “Blackhawks,” “Seminoles,” and “Chippewas,” while potentially more problematic, can still be okay provided the symbols are appropriately respectful – which is where the Cleveland Indians with the combination of their name and “Chief Wahoo” logo have sometimes run into trouble.

A number of teams, mostly in the college ranks, have changed their names in response to objections. The Stanford Cardinal and the Dartmouth Big Green were each once the Indians; the St. John’s Redmen have become the Red Storm, and the Miami of Ohio Redskins – that’s right, Redskins – are now the Red Hawks.

Still, the NFL franchise that represents the nation’s capital has maintained its name.  But think for a moment about the term “Redskins,” and how it truly differs from all the others.  Ask yourself what the equivalent would be, if directed toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or members of any other ethnic group.

When considered that way, “Redskins” can’t possibly honor a heritage, or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term.  It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent. It is fair to say that for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended. But, if you take a step back, isn’t it clear to see how offense “might” legitimately be taken?

For more on this topic, including Daniel Snyder’s take, go to http://www.nbcsports.com/nickname.

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