The R-Word?

The venerable Bob Costas joins the scalpers of the Washington Redskins.

By 10.15.13

When Slate, Mother Jones and the New Republic announced with great fanfare last August they would not use the name Redskins in their description of Washington’s NFL team, I took to these pages to ponder the motivations of these left-wing periodicals and the Left at large:

President Obama hasn’t brought about hope and change nor have they turned America into the socialist paradise. (Well, the Obama Administration has turned America socialist, but you can forget about the paradise part). With no hope or change to be found, they have to be aggrieved and angry about something. The more trivial that something, the better. The Left lusts for power to change anything it can anywhere it can regardless of whether anything better actually comes of that change. 

If you think about it, this push to change the Redskins name is yet another Alinskyite campaign: pick a target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it. So it is hardly a surprise that the Alinskyite-in-Chief would get in on the act. In an interview with the Associated Press earlier this month, Obama indicated he would “think about changing” the Redskins’ name if he owned the team. Who knows? Given how poorly the rollout of Obamacare has gone thus far, Obama might very well find it more desirable for the federal government to own a NFL team and send in the National Park Service to seize FedEx Field. Of course, if Obama were to express such an interest in the Redskins it would raise a lot of yellow flags.

Yet Obama’s intervention was mild in comparison to that of sportscaster Bob Costas. During the halftime show of NBC’s telecast of the Redskins-Cowboys game this past Sunday night Costas derided the continued use of the Redskins name characterizing the name as “an insult, a slur.”

Before I go further, I should say I have enjoyed Costas’ commentary for many years, especially his baseball coverage. Indeed, I praised Costas after he chided the International Olympic Committee for not having a moment of silence during the 2012 London Olympics to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

With this in mind, however, I wonder for how long exactly has Bob Costas considered the Redskins name to be an insult and a slur? Was it when he had to call the Redskins-Patriots game at RFK Stadium with Bob Trumpy during Week 8 of the 1981 NFL season? (The Redskins won 24-22.) Or was it when the Redskins won Super Bowl XVII? Super Bowl XXII or maybe even Super Bowl XVI? Was it before John Riggins told Sandra Day O’Connor to “loosen up, baby”? Or was it sometime after Lawrence Taylor snapped Joe Theismann’s leg?

In all likelihood, Costas only began to view Redskins as an insult and a slur after his colleagues in the liberal media decided to make it their latest cause célèbre and is now jumping on the bandwagon.

There are a couple of interesting things about Costas’ commentary. First, while Costas now deems Redskins beyond the pale, team names like the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chiefs are fine while the Chicago Blackhawks “are potentially more problematic, but can still be O.K.” Meanwhile, Costas considers the Cleveland Indians as offensive as the Redskins. Alas, this offense didn’t prevent him from covering the Indians in the 1995 and 1997 World Series. Costas’ standards of propriety are both peculiar and arbitrary.

Second, Costas acknowledges that most Native Americans do not find the term Redskins offensive. Alas, this does not deter Costas:

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 any other ethnic group. When considered that way, Redskins can’t possibly honor a heritage or a noble character trait; nor could 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, 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?

Believe it or not, the Redskins franchise was originally founded as the Boston Braves in 1932 (sharing the same name with the Boston Braves National League baseball team). The following year, owner George Marshall changed the name from Braves to Redskins and subsequently moved to Fenway Park where they played until Marshall moved the franchise to Washington, D.C. in 1937. Somehow I doubt that Marshall changed the name thinking, “Gee, how I can disparage Native Americans in the worst way imaginable?”

Costas implies that the Redskin name is the equivalent of the N-word. If that were true then the mere mention of the word Redskin would hit a raw nerve amongst Native Americans and cause instantaneous offense, anger, and perhaps even violence. Indeed, if Redskin was so insidious and insulting wouldn’t we have long ago referred to it as the R-word?

Of course, if Bob Costas and the rest of the liberal intelligentsia have their way, Redskin will soon be banished from polite society. The Left will then set its sights on another R-word it wishes to see expunged from our daily lexicon: Republican.

Photo: UPI

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About the Author
Aaron Goldstein writes from Boston, Massachusetts.