Strong reactions to Bob Costas’s commentary on Sunday Night Football about the Redskins name were all over Monday morning broadcasts and on social media, adding to what has become a larger debate about what is politically incorrect.
Costas, a veteran NBC broadcaster, tackled the Washington Redskins name change debate on Sunday during the Redskins-Cowboys game, saying that the name was a racial slur and offensive to him and Native Americans.
The 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. The NBC 5 Chicago website asked readers to weigh in on Costas comments and post on its Facebook page. More than 1,300 people responded to the question: “Do you find Redskins offensive and do you think the team should change it?”
“No, I’m tired of the NFL promoting anything but old time American football played in the U.S.A.,” said Patrick Cahill. Lisa Mensik said, “Seriously??? Aren't their [sic] other more pertinent things to worry about?? Bob Costas is offended? By a damn name of a football team? Get over it Bob.”
But, Costas “wasn’t over” it. He stood by his response on Patrick’s show saying that the Redskins name change debate is a “football issue.”
“I’m not comparing this in importance, or comparing myself to any of those who crusaded for a worthy cause,” Costas said, “but I’m sure that people said if someone wrote in a New York newspaper in 1947, or prior to that, saying it’s wrong that there are not black players in Major League Baseball — Stick to sports!
“But very often, sports inevitably has intersected with issues that appear, to some extent, to be outside the field. And on some occasions, sports has actually been the best vehicle for discussing these issues, because sports cuts across so many demographic lines.”
Fox and Friends hosts also weighed in, wondering why in his 30 years as a broadcaster Costas chose to join the debate now.
“If you did this in 1977 when [Costas] broke in, when he was in the ABA doing play-by-play, [and said] ‘By the way, I’m offended by the Redskins,’ then I agree,” said Fox and Friend’s Brian Kilmeade. Kilmeade argued that had Costas believed it was necessary to change the name when he first became a broadcaster in 1977, then Kilmeade would understand why Costas would want to change the team’s name.
Costas told Patrick that the name Redskins wasn’t an issue all those years ago. He said that the debate has come to head today.
“You have an active group that is pushing the issue, there’s a meeting that is going to take place in the next few weeks between NFL officials and the Oneida Nation representatives. President Obama has addressed it. Roger Goodell has addressed it. It’s been editorialized in The Washington Post and other places. It is now a front-burner issue in the NFL. It’s an NFL issue, it’s not a random political issue. And Washington was playing Dallas on our air last night.”
Costas didn’t say if he thinks the team should change its name. “I wasn’t even calling for a specific action, although I was implying it. What I was asking the audience to do was to consider that even though—and I went out of my way to say this—CLEARLY no offense is intended. But even though no offense is intended, isn’t it clear — if you’re fair — to see how some offense could legitimately be taken? Not necessarily by all Native Americans.”
Brian TaCheenie, who is Native American said, “How about the New York Jews? Or the Alabama Negros? Florida Rednecks?” TaCheenie wrote on the NBC 5 Facebook page. “Fans wearing headdresses and war paint at games? It does not sit right! Intent does not matter. Ignorance does.”