Bob Costas Suggests Rethinking “Redskins” Name

Bob Costas has been making headlines beyond our announcement of his return to TEAMS in Salt Lake City in November. At Sunday night’s Washington Redskins–Dallas Cowboys game, Bob offered a commentary that called the continued use of the Redskins name an “insult” and a “slur.” The topic of the Redskins name has been a hot one this football season, with President Obama saying he would consider a name change if he was the team’s owner, and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder saying he has no plans to switch. Regardless of your take on the issue, you have to admire Bob for bravely going where few other sports commentators have dared and his willingness to offer his stance on the controversial issue. Sometimes being a leader means not taking a popular position and Bob has proven himself a leader in the broadcast studio on more than one occasion.

TEAMS attendees will get the chance to see him in conversation with another man who wasn’t afraid to take positions on the controversial issues of the day, Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate. Their discussion will take place at the opening General Session at 1 p.m. Tuesday, November 5, at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Be sure to be on hand to hear it.

In case you missed the NBC broadcast of the game, here were Bob’s comments:

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?