FCC Considering Whether to Ban TV Stations from Saying Redskins

FCC Considering Whether to Ban TV Stations from Saying Redskins

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering whether “to ban TV stations from saying the name of Washington’s football team,” according to a National Journal report.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has already called on Redskins owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s name, and according to National Journal, Wheeler said on Tuesday his agency is considering a petition from George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf in which Banzhaf urged the agency to ban the “racial slur” because it is against the public interest. Banzhaf “filed a petition with the agency earlier this month, claiming that the name ‘Redskins’ violates federal rules barring any indecent content on broadcast television.”

“We will be dealing with that issue on the merits, and we will be responding accordingly,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler reportedly said at a Tuesday press conference. According to National Journal, Wheeler “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 reportedly said. “I think the name that is attributed to the Washington football club is one of those.”

In his FCC petition, Banzhaf compared “Redskins” to other slurs, arguing that “the agency would never countenance stations broadcasting words like N*gg*rs, Sp*cs,W*tb*acks, Ch*nks, K*kes, C*nts, F*gs, etc., even as the name of a team or musical group.”

According to the Washington Post, Banzhaf, the George Washington University law professor who “played a leading role in pushing cigarette advertising off television and radio in 1970,” filed one legal petition and threatened more to block renewal of federal broadcast licenses for radio and TV stations that routinely use the team’s name on the air.” His Sept. 2 filing reportedly “aimed to block renewal of the license for WWXX (94.3 FM), a Snyder-owned radio station in Prince William County,” and he “has also sent formal notices to four major Los Angeles TV stations warning that he plans similar filings against them.” Banzhaf told the Post that his filings “hang like a sword of Damocles over the stations.”

If successful, Banzhaf would “impact almost every broadcast outlet in the country” and make it impossible for those stations to get loans and financing.

According to the Post, Banzhaf is arguing airing “Redskins” is “against the public interest” because “the team name is a racial slur, offensive to many Native Americans.” He is claiming that Redskins “violates Federal Communications Commission standards against indecency, profanity and hate speech.” He also reportedly believes that “if the FCC could make a huge fuss with CBS for briefly exposing Janet Jackson’s nipple during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show…  then it ought to be able to use its weight to push an offensive term off the airwaves.”

“Despite whatever the origins of the word ‘R*skins’ may be, or the original intent of the owner who first gave the team its name, the evidence is now overwhelming that the current meaning is an offensive demeaning racial swear word, not only to many Indians, but also others,” Banzhaf wrote in his FCC filing, according to the Post. 

Majorities in nearly every poll do not think the Redskins should change their name, but a the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently canceled the team’s trademark. Snyder, though, has vowed to “NEVER” change the team’s name because he says it has always been a term meant to convey respect. 


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