Congressmen, Former FCC Officials Ask Agency to Punish Use of ‘Redskins’ on Air

by Andrew Johnson

Some members of Congress, former federal officials, and broadcast-law lawyers are asking the Federal Communications Commission to punish broadcasters for using the word “Redskins” on air, with measures including refusing to renew their license.

In a statement, the group told the FCC that “it is inappropriate for broadcasters to use racial epithets as part of normal, everyday reporting” and that sanctions could deter the networks from using the word. For example, if the FCC merely threatened not to renew licenses, broadcasters could have trouble securing content contracts and see their credit ratings drop.

Opponents of the word are also asking the Congressional Research Service to “investigate and report on whether the deliberate, repeated, and unnecessary use of the term ‘XXXskins’ serves the public interest,” one of the goals meant to guide FCC policy. Although the FCC will make the ultimate decision on the word’s use, it seems like an opinion on the matter from Congress could sway both the agency and broadcasters to take action.

John Banzhaf, a public-interest-law professor at George Washington University, suggested FCC sanctions on using “Redskins” after the team’s owner told members of Congress he would not change the name. In an even more aggressive play, earlier this year, some member of Congress introduced a bill to void the team’s trademark of the Redskins name on the same grounds that it was culturally insensitive to American Indians.