Redskins Will Review Team Name, Mascot

Football announcers may no longer be faced with the dilemma of what to call Washington's NFL team--some have chosen not to use it on air in solidarity with those who say it is a racist term that has no business being used. 

The team announced Friday (July 3) that the team's name and mascot, which some Native Americans argue are offensive and demeaning, would undergo a "thorough review." 

Broadcasters in the U.S. have pretty much left whether to use the team name up to their analysts and sports anchors, 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.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), one of the groups that has been pushing team owner Dan Snyder to change the name, called the team's announcement an "important breakthrough." 

Related: Supremes Say Disparaging Trademark Names Are Protected 

"This moment has been 87 years in the making, and we have reached this moment thanks to decades of tireless efforts by tribal leaders, advocates, citizens, and partners to educate America about the origins and meaning of the R-word,” said NCAI President Fawn Sharp. 

The moment is also another byproduct of the national reckoning on racism prompted by the death of George Floyd. 

NCAI said the look forward to talking with the team about how they will change the name and mascot, preferably promptly. 

EPSN reported that the expectation was the review would, indeed, result in a change. 

"This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization's sponsors, the National Football League and the local community," said Snyder. 

Related: Groups Seeks NFLPA Public Stand on Team Name 

That history also includes being the last team in the league to integrate. The statue of its former owner George Preston Marshall, who resisted integration until the early 1960s, was removed from in front of the team's former home, RFK Stadium in Washington, earlier this month. 

Redskins coach Ron Rivera said the issue of the team name was of "personal importance" to him and said he wanted to "continue the mission" of honoring Native Americans." 

Back in 2014, the FCC's Media Bureau rejected a petition to deny the renewal of Snyder's Washington radio station, WWXX-FM, over its use of the term "Redskins" on-air to refer to the team. Challenges to several TV station licenses were also lodged on the grounds the term was profane, but the FCC did not see it that way. 

That came during the tenure of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who himself supported the name change.

Numerous members of Congress have also called for the name 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 some Native Americans who do not oppose it.

But a columnist for British newspaper The Independent, who argued several years ago that the BBC should not use the name when reporting about a game between the team and the Cincinnati Bengals played at Wembley Stadium in London, cited Oneida leader Ray Halbritter, who in turn 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.