NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Bob Costas has weighed in on the Washington Redskins controversy, using his “Sunday Night Football” platform to call the team’s nickname “an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent.”
Costas — no stranger to stirring debate on “SNF” — made the comments during halftime of the Dallas Cowboys’ win over Washington:
“With Washington playing Dallas here tonight, it seems like an appropriate time to acknowledge the ongoing controversy about the name ‘Redskins.’ Let’s start here: there’s no reason to believe that owner Daniel Snyder, or any official or player from his team, harbors animus towards Native Americans, or wishes to disrespect them. This is undoubtedly also true of the vast majority of those who don’t think twice about the longstanding moniker. And, in fact, as best could be determined, even a majority of Native Americans say they are not offended.
“But, having stipulated that, there’s still a distinction to be made. Objections to names like Braves, Chiefs, Warriors and the like strike many of us as political correctness run amok. These nicknames honor, rather than demean. They’re pretty much the same as Vikings, Patriots or even Cowboys. And names like Blackhawks, Seminoles and Chippewas, while potentially more problematic, can still be okay, provided the symbols are appropriately respectful, which is where the Cleveland Indians, with the combination of their name and Chief Wahoo logo, have sometimes run into trouble.
“A number of teams, mostly in the college ranks, have changed their names in response to objections. The Stanford Cardinal and the Dartmouth Big Green were each once the Indians. The St. Johns Redmen have become the Red Storm. And the Miami of Ohio Redskins, that’s right Redskins, are now the RedHawks. Still, the NFL franchise that represents the nation’s capital has maintained its name.
“But 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 members of any other ethnic group. When considered that way, Redskins can’t possibly honor a heritage or a 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.
“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?”
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has remained steadfast in his defense of the name, even after the issue reached the nation’s highest office. President Barack Obama said earlier this month that he would “think about changing” the name if he owned the franchise.
Prior to Sunday’s game in Dallas, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told a group of season-ticket holders that it “would be a real mistake — a real mistake — to think Dan, who is Jewish, has a lack of sensitivity regarding anybody’s feelings,” according to USA Today.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also spoke about the topic in Dallas.
“I think we also have to be sensitive enough to at least listen and try to see what it is we can do if we’re insulting any element of our fan base, or non-fan base for that matter,” Goodell said during the question-and-answer session, The Associated Press reported. “I think Dan Snyder is way down the road on doing that. I’m confident he’s listening. I’m confident he feels strongly about the name but also wants to do the right thing.”
The Oneida Indian Nation has been front and center in the campaign to change the Redskins’ nickname. The upstate New York tribe held a symposium on the topic in D.C. last week and plans to meet with the league on the matter.
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