A GW law professor challenged a local radio station’s on-air use of the word “Redskins,” the controversial name of D.C.’s football franchise, this week.
John Banzhaf, a law professor who focuses on legal activism, is trying to push the Federal Communication Commission to label the word a racial slur, which would prohibit its use on the air. He filed a complaint against WWXX-FM, an ESPN affiliate owned by the team’s owner Dan Snyder, arguing that the license for the station should not be renewed because broadcasters now use the term.
“Most people I think would agree that a station that repeatedly used the n-word on the air would have their license taken away,” Banzhaf said. “American Indians call it the r-word. Therefore broadcasters shouldn’t be using the term ‘Redskins.’”
If the FCC approves prohibiting the word from the air, a station that uses the team’s name could lose its license to report on the airwaves.
The Washington Post editorial board announced last month it would stop calling the team by its name. And Wednesday, the New York Daily News announced it would not use the team’s name in its editorials, or print its logo in the newspaper.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revoked the team’s trademark this summer, calling it “disparaging to Native Americans.” That ruling cut the franchise’s ability to sue for damages from logo infringement.
Broadcasters that do not refer to the team by name could hurt Snyder’s marketing efforts, Banzhaf said.
Still, Snyder has said in the past that he will not consider changing the team’s name.
Banzhaf said former FCC chairman Reed Hunt had supported his efforts to change the team’s name last year, and other former commissioners then joined him.
Banzhaf pointed to his previous successes challenging the FCC, such as when he worked to increase the number of black reporters and anchors on the air in the early 1970s. He said after he filed a motion against a D.C. television news network, it quickly hired an black reporter to avoid losing its license.