BBC Asked Not to Use 'Redskins'

A columnist for British newspaper The Independent has called on the BBC not to use the term "Redskins" to refer to the Washington NFL team when the team plays in England next fall.

The team will be playing the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium Oct. 30 and the BBC will be broadcasting the game.

"BBC, as national broadcaster, has a responsibility to oppose racism and discrimination and, as it prepares to cover the Washington-Cincinnati game, must take a stand and refuse to use the name," wrote columnist Jane Merrick. "The proud history of anti-racism in British sport must not be allowed to die on 30 October."

Broadcasters in the U.S. have pretty much left it up to their analysts and sports anchors whether or not to use the team name, though the hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, decided not to use the name on its editorial page, which has urged a name change, while continuing to use it on the news pages.

Merrick's column was written after Merrick met with the head of the Oneida Indian Nation, a lead group in the Change the Mascot campaign that has been pressuring the team to change its name.

"With a rising British audience for the Super Bowl next month, the NFL is in talks for what could be a lucrative British franchise team within the next six years," she said. "It is abhorrent to think that children, new to American football in this country, will be cheering the name 'Redskins' without understanding the horrors of its origins," Merrick wrote.

The FCC has denied challenges to radio and TV stations that used the name by groups claiming it was indecent or hate speech. The FCC said the name did not fall under those definitions in its rules. But the U.S. Patent Office has said it won't protect the patents on team merchandise using the name, and last year Education Secretary Arne Duncan tweeted that the name should be changed.

Numerous members of Congress have also called for the change, including threatening to eliminate the NFL's tax-exempt status because the league hasn't taken action to get the team owner to change its name.

Snyder has said the name honors a proud heritage and points to Native Americans who do not oppose it and the president of the team has said the name isn't changing.

But Merrick says Oneida leader Ray Halbritter pointed to a newspaper clipping from 1863 referring to "red-skins" as the bloody scalps for which a $200 bounty was being paid.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.