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The legendary NBC sportscaster began by saying, “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.” And he noted that a majority of Native Americans say they’re not offended by the name.
But after assessing the implications of other Native American-inspired team names — including the Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs and now-defunct monikers like the Stanford Indians and St. John’s Redmen — Costas concluded that Washington’s team name is offensive.
“It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent,” Costas said. “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?”
Although controversy over the Redskins’ name has flared up in the past, the issue has reached a fever pitch over the past few months with the Oneida Indian Nation’s campaign to get Washington to change its name. Although Snyder has vowed to keep the name, the NFL said it will meet with the tribe’s representatives, and even President Obama said he’d think about changing the name if he were the owner.
Costas spends each Sunday Night Football halftime commenting on an issue of his choice.
Read Costas’ full halftime essay and watch video of his remarks below.
Bob Costas’ Halftime Essay on Redskins Name
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?
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