A great deal of controversy has surrounded the Washington Redskins' nickname in recent years, but it has really heated up over the last several weeks as President Barack Obama and several others have thrown their take on the matter into the public arena.
NBC's Bob Costas often likes to use his time during halftime of the Sunday Night Football game to give his two cents on the NFL's hot-button topics. Last December, he ruffled more than a few feathers when he gave a polarizing speech on gun control following a murder-suicide involving former Kansas City Chief Jovan Belcher.
In Week 6, he again used his platform to call for the elimination of the Washington Redskins' nickname during the broadcast of the Redskins' game against the Dallas Cowboys.
The term "Redskins" has been considered offensive to Native Americans for quite some time, and the push for Washington's NFL franchise to change its name has gained plenty of steam as of late. Costas' halftime segments are always thoughtful and eloquent, and that was certainly the case on Sunday.
As seen in the video of Costas' statement, he reasoned that Redskins has to be considered an offensive term when taking into account how similar nicknames for other races would be perceived.
Ask yourself what the equivalent would be if directed towards African Americans, Hispanics, Asians or 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.
The Redskins issue has become so significant that even President Obama was asked to weigh in recently. While he stopped short of definitively saying that the name should be changed, he said that he would "think about changing" it if put in Redskins owner Dan Snyder's shoes, according to CNN.
"I don't know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things," President Obama said.
Despite mounting opposition, Snyder has shown no willingness to change the name, and he even told Erik Brady of USA Today that he would never change it when asked about it in May.
We will never change the name of the team. As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it's all about and what it means, so we feel pretty fortunate to be just working on next season.
We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.
In a letter to fans last week, Snyder acknowledged the opposition to the name, but leaned on the history and heritage behind the name.
I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn. But we cannot ignore our 81-year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country. After 81 years, the team name ‘Redskins’ continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.
We are Redskins Nation...and we owe it to our fans and coaches and players, past and present, to preserve that heritage.
While some may feel like Snyder's unwavering stance is a slap in the face to those who are offended, Costas doesn't believe that Snyder or those who support it are racist by any means.
There’s no reason to believe that owner Daniel Snyder, or any official or player from his team, harbors animus towards Native Americans, or chooses 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 could be determined, even a majority of Native Americans say they are not offended.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones supported Snyder and also denied that Snyder's actions have anything to do with ignoring those who take offense to his team's nickname, according to CBS New York via USA TODAY.
Prior to Sunday’s game in Dallas, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told a group of season-ticket holders that it “would be a real mistake — a real mistake — to think Dan, who is Jewish, has a lack of sensitivity regarding anybody’s feelings."
In addition to that, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expressed a desire to look into complaints against the nickname, and he believes that Snyder would be willing to do the same, per the Associated Press via CBS New York.
“I think we also have to be sensitive enough to at least listen and try to see what it is we can do if we’re insulting any element of our fan base, or non-fan base for that matter,” Goodell said during the question-and-answer session, the Associated Press reported. “I think Dan Snyder is way down the road on doing that. I’m confident he’s listening. I’m confident he feels strongly about the name but also wants to do the right thing.”
While there is no indication that Snyder has changed his mind with regard to his team's nickname, the current firestorm that he is enduring may very well necessitate a change in the near future.
The Redskins fell to the Cowboys on Sunday night, 31-16. They host the Chicago Bears in Week 7.
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