During NBC’s Sunday Night Football halftime show last night, broadcaster Bob Costas addressed the Redskins controversy for the first time.
He used almost two minutes of airtime to “acknowledge the ongoing controversy about the name Redskins,” which he said “truly differs” from all the other mascots like Braves, Chiefs, and Golden State.
Costas said that the word Redskins is a slur and an insult no matter “how benign the present day intent.” He also said that the word should be dropped even if it’s merely perceived as offensive.
He asked NBC’s millions of viewers, to “think about what the equivalent would be if it were directed toward African Americans, Hispanics, Asians or members of any other ethnic group,” arguing that “Redskins can’t possibly honor a heritage or a noble character trait.”
Costas, who’s been a broadcaster for NBC since the early 1980s, has an opportunity every SNF game to recite a personal essay about hot topics. On Sunday night, during the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins game, he chose to speak about the name change controversy.
“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,” he said. “But having said that, there’s still a distinction to be made.”
That fine line, he said, is that certain team names are politically incorrect, but Redskins is offensive.
“Names like Blackhawks, Seminoles and Chippewas, while potentially problematic, can still be okay provided the symbols are appropriately respectful,” Costas said. He compared those names to other football team names: Vikings, Patriots and the Cowboys. “Which is where the Cleveland Indians, with the combination of their name and Chief Wahoo logo, have sometimes run into trouble.”
Costas pointed out that several college teams, like Stanford and Dartmouth, changed their names from the “Indians” to the Cardinals and Big Green, respectively. And that even the Miami of Ohio Redskins, changed their name to RedHawks. But, said, “still the NFL franchise that represents the nation’s capitol, has maintained its name.”
“It’s fair to say that for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended,” Costas said. “But if you take a step back, isn’t it clear to see how offense might legitimately be taken?”