The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the body’s consideration on Tuesday of censoring the word “Redskins” on the public airwaves.
“There are a lot of names and descriptions that were used over time that are inappropriate today,” FCC chairman Tom Wheeler told reporters, according to Reuters, on a conference call. “And I think the name that is attributed to the Washington football club is one of those.”
The consideration of a ban stems from a petition brought to the commission by George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf to revoke the license of Washington, DC-area radio station WWXX-AM, a sports outlet owned by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. Banzhaf claims the team’s name amounts to an obscenity.
The FCC metes out punishment for broadcast material dubbed “profane,” “indecent,” or “obscene.” The governmental body regards that final category as one deserving of no governmental protection. Whereas the FCC defines “indecent” as “patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards,” and “profane” as “patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards,” it follows the Supreme Court in describing “obscene” as “prurient,” “patently offensive” material that lacks value and offends “contemporary community standards.”
What community regards “Redskins” as obscene?
Last week, a Sports Illustrated/Marketing & Research Resources poll of NFL fans found that about four out of five do not regard “Redskins” as offensive. Similarly, an Associated Press poll of the broader public reported that 79 percent want the team to keep the name. An Annenberg survey of Native Americans conducted a decade ago reported just 9 percent of respondents judging the team’s name “offensive.”
Nevertheless, the FCC chairman, who carefully avoided using the word he considers banning, says of Banzhaf’s petition, “We’ll be looking at that petition, we will be dealing with that issue on the merits and we’ll be responding accordingly.”