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Distinguished Group, Including Sonny Skyhawk, Asks Dan Snyder to Change Name of His D.C. NFL Team

A bi-partisan group of former FCC officials, including former chairman Reed Hundt, and distinguished practitioners, including Sonny Skyhawk, before the FCC today released a letter to Washington football team owner Dan Snyder requesting that he change the “archaic and racially stereotyped name” of the team.

The letter points out that the current name is the most derogatory name a Native American can be called, as the term originated with bounty hunters who received government payments for delivering dead bodies of Native Americans.  The former officials note that it is inappropriate for broadcasters to use such ethnic slurs as part of normal, everyday reporting.  In the same way, they argue, it is inappropriate to have football broadcasts continually use an ethnic slur as it insults part of the population and desensitizes the rest of the population to that harm.

Noting the central role that the nation's capital should play in uniting all Americans, the letter further notes that it “is especially unseemly for our nation’s capital to be represented by a football team whose name and mascot keep alive the spirit of inhumanity, subjugation and genocide that nearly wiped out the Native American population.”

The letter concludes by asking Snyder to “exercise leadership by changing the team’s name so that it promotes an image that positively reflects the ethnic and cultural diversity and mutual respect that defines our great Nation.”

Chairman Hundt explained the group's position in an editorial published today by The Washington Post. Read that here.

Here is the full text of the letter to Snyder. You can also access it by clicking here.

Dear Mr. Snyder:

We are writing as longtime participants in the FCC regulatory process to respectfully encourage you to change the archaic and racially stereotyped name of the Washington XXXskins football team.

It is impermissible under law that the FCC would condone, or that broadcasters would use, obscene pornographic language on live television. This medium uses government owned airwaves in exchange for an understanding that it will promote the public interest. Similarly, it is inappropriate for broadcasters to use racial epithets as part of normal, everyday reporting. Thankfully, one does not hear the "n" word on nightly newscasts. Yet, doubtlessly because long habit has bred unawareness, as opposed to some conscious act of insult, it is routine for broadcasters to use “XXXskins” in normal, everyday reporting. In this context, we ask you to help broadcasters and the public achieve a higher consciousness by leading the name change.

“XXXskin” is the most derogatory name a Native American can be called. It is an unequivocal racial slur. As The Washington Post’s Mike Wise pointed out, “America wouldn’t stand for a team called the Blackskins—or the Mandingos, the Brothers, the Yellowskins, insert your ethnic minority here.”

The demeaning characterization of a “XXXskin” originated from the blood shed during the eradication of millions of Native Americans after European arrival in the New World. For three centuries, government?sanctioned bounties were issued for the dead bodies of Native Americans. As it became increasingly difficult for trappers to transport masses of rotting corpses, colonial governors agreed to pay for Native Americans’ scalps and skins. Trappers subsequently began using the term redskin to symbolize the bloody skin and scalps they collected. It is especially unseemly for our nation’s capital to be represented by a football team whose name and mascot keep alive the spirit of inhumanity, subjugation and genocide that nearly wiped out the Native American population.

We sincerely request that you exercise leadership by changing the team’s name so that it promotes an image that positively reflects the cultural and ethnic diversity and mutual respect that defines our great Nation.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Adelstein

Reed Hundt

Andrew Schwartzman

Henry Geller

Nicholas Johnson

Sonny Skyhawk

Dan Gonzalez

Erwin Krasnow

Gigi Sohn

David Honig

Blair Levin

Brent Wilkes

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