Former FCC officials claim calling team 'Redskins' on airwaves is illegal

Former Federal Communications Commission officials are arguing that it is illegal to say the name of Washington, D.C.'s professional football team on broadcast television and radio.

They argue that the name "Redskins" is offensive to American Indians and violates federal rules banning indecent material on public airwaves.

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Liberal public interest activists and former FCC officials, including former Chairman Reed Hundt, sent a letter to Redskins owner Dan Snyder on Friday urging him to change the team's name.

The officials noted that broadcasters are granted the right to use federal airwaves in exchange for a promise to promote the public interest.

"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," they wrote.

They argued that "Redskin" is the most derogatory name an American Indian can be called and is an "unequivocal racial slur," saying that people first began using the name to describe the dead bodies of American Indians that they then turned into the government for bounties.

"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 officials wrote.

A spokesman for the Redskins declined to comment.

Hundt, who chaired the FCC from 1993 to 1997, also wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post, calling on Snyder to change the team's name. He wrote that the FCC "clearly has the authority to investigate whether broadcasters’ use of derogatory names to describe sports teams and players comports with the public interest."

But he said it should be unnecessary for the FCC to consider imposing fines because TV stations should demand that Snyder abandon the name.

Former FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Nicholas Johnson and former top FCC aides Blair Levin, Henry Geller, Erwin Krasnow and Dan Gonzalez also signed the letter, in addition to actor and activist Sonny Skyhawk and public advocates Gigi Sohn, Andrew Schwartzman, David Honig and Brent Wilkes.