The Daily Banter

The NFL and Why We’re More Outraged Over a Team Name Than Criminal Behavior

Allow me to be perfectly clear: the name “Redskins” is absolutely an offensive racial slur, and, yes, owner Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins organization should change the name. Ultimately, doing so is harmless. Some fans will be disgruntled but they’ll quickly get over it. Speaking of which, as a guy who grew up in the D.C. metropolitan area and adored the Redskins for more than half my life, it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest if the team name was changed to whatever. At this point, I really don’t care what it is, nor will my life be impacted in any way by it, but if I were forced to weigh in with an alternative, I don’t mind “Americans” or “Redtails.”

However, there’s one bothersome aspect to the ongoing debate about whether to change the team name. The degree of public outrage over the name, both for and against, seems to far outweigh the reaction to clearly more outrage-worthy behavior throughout the NFL. Again, this isn’t to say in any way, shape or form that the Washington team name issue isn’t important. It is. But it’s slightly less important than what appears to be an epidemic of criminal behavior by NFL players, including domestic violence, drug abuse, the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs, and the league’s frustrating leniency toward all of the above. Even the federal government, which hasn’t scrutinized any of these other more critical problems, weighed in on the name controversy.

This past June, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office famously rescinded the trademark to the team name, famously satirized on a recent episode of the great South Park. The matter worked its way up to a tribunal with the Trademark Office known as the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which decided 2-to-1 to rescind the trademark due to its obviously offensive connotation.

And this week, it was announced that the Federal Communications Commission is considering a request to ban the used of the team name on broadcast television. The chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, stated point-blank that the team name is “offensive and derogatory” and that he and the other members of the commission “will be dealing with that issue on the merits, and we’ll be responding accordingly.” Naturally, it could swing either way, though the FCC often decides based on what they consider to be community standards with regards to offensive language — a subjective “we know it when we see it” rule of thumb. The fact that the chairman used the word “offensive” should make Dan Snyder crap his big-boy pants.

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(ht Attorney Kush Arora)