October 14, 2013

Bob Costas criticizes "Redskins"

Bob Costas Says Redskins Name Is 'An Insult, A Slur' During NBC's 'Sunday Night Football'

By Chris GreenbergBob Costas felt that halftime of the latest installment of NBC's "Sunday Night Football" was "an appropriate time" to address the controversy swirling around the Washington Redskins.

Not everyone agreed.

With RG3 and the reigning NFC East champions facing off against the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday, Costas tackled the team's name and iconography. After briefly surveying the issues, as he sees them, plaguing teams with Native American monikers and mascots, Costas took aim at the franchise owned by Dan Snyder.

"But think for a moment about the term 'Redskins' and how it truly differs from all the others," Costas said. "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 a noble character trait, nor could it possibly be considered a neutral term. It's an insult, a slur no matter how benign the present-day intent. It's 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?"
Bob Costas says Redskins’ team name is offensive during halftime essay on NBC

Racists react

Anti-Redskins Stance by Costas on SNF Draws a Storm of ReactionsThe reactions to Costas’s commentary varied. Some said he should not have weighed in on the debate or used two-minutes during the halftime show to make a political argument. Others, including Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg, said Costas stopped short of legitimizing the debate because he said that mascots like the Braves and Chiefs were not offensive, just politically incorrect. And Fox and Friends hosts asked why Costas took 30 years to say he was offended by the name.

Costas tried to clarify some of his comments on Dan Patrick’s radio broadcast yesterday. Patrick asked Costas if he used Football Night in America for “social causes.”

“Nonsense. Nonsense. Dan, I’m surprised,” Costas said. “This is so obvious. No, it’s a football issue. It’s right there. It’s a football issue.”

Many NFL fans disagreed on Facebook.
10 worst reactions to Bob Costas declaring Redskins name an “insult” and “a slur”[S]ome Redskins fans and conservatives who were preparing for a sermon have responded by insulting Costas, further marginalizing Native Americans, or dismissing Costas’ commentary as self-righteous ranting.Fox’s trivializing, dismissive take on the offensive Redskins nameFox, unsurprisingly, has compared the controversy—and the president’s comments—to “those waterskiing squirrels you see at the end of local news,” a “light” throwaway story.Kilmeade asks Native Americans offended by ‘Redskins’: ‘Why now?’“Here’s my question, they’ve been the Redskins for 81 years, why is everyone offended now?” Kilmeade wondered.Uh, Indians have been offended, and have said so, for about half a century. That you're ignorant of their protests says a lot more about you than about them.

Profile in courage

On the other hand, some people saluted Costas. For instance:

Bob Costas Spoke Out Against ‘Redskins,’ and It Was a Big Deal

By Dave ZirinMy view, and I cannot say this forcefully enough, is that whatever problems people may have with the content of what Bob Costas said, the veteran broadcaster seized the moment and was a profile in courage. Costas did the unthinkable: he took a stand against racism on national television. He also openly—as he did a year ago by addressing gun culture after the horrific murder suicide perpetrated by Chiefs’ player Jovan Belcher against Kasandra Perkins—willingly courted the ire of disturbingly violent right-wing sports fans and their droogs in the conservative blogosphere. (These right-wingers seem to always ignore that the greatest backer of changing the name in Congress is Oklahoma Republican and Choctaw Nation member Tom Cole.)

Take a step back and look at what Costas did. He faced the camera on the most watched television show in the United States and said the following.

“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 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.”

If you had told me even two months ago that Bob Costas would be saying those words, I would have been in a state of shock. The terrain has changed. Credit for this should go to The Oneida Nation, the Choctaw, Suzan Harjo, and—unsung in the media—the longtime work on this in hostile environs by Washington Post columnist Mike Wise. Credit should also go to RG3, the team quarterback whose greatness—on display even in last night’s terrible loss to the Cowboys—has made the team relevant for the first time in fifteen years. Credit should also go to team owner Dan Snyder for being so ineffably obnoxious about the whole issue, it makes anyone who stands alongside him feel like they need to shower with steel wool afterwards. And credit should truly go to Bob Costas for having the guts to take what is still a minority position and put it to the widest possible audience.

I believe that support for the “Redskins” name is 1,000 miles wide and one inch thick. Most people just, in the words of former coach Joe Gibbs, “haven’t really thought about it.” Bob Costas now has people thinking about it, and that is the first step toward a long overdue change.

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