Bozell Column: The New Broadcast Profanity, 'Redskins'?

Conservatives begin by revering tradition; liberals often by trashing it. In fact, it doesn’t bother liberals that something they found acceptable one day is declared -- by them -- repugnant the next. It’s taken only a few days of liberal media agitation for MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell to announce that Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is “the George Wallace of the NFL.”

Snyder saying he’ll never change his team's name has somehow become historically comparable to George Wallace’s “segregation forever.” It’s suddenly so offensive, apparently, that the leftists who have gone to court to make the airwaves safe for every profanity imaginable, in the name of free speech and tolerance, are now petitioning the Federal Communications Commission to ban “the R-word” from television.

They’re urging the broadcasters to “self-regulate” the team name out of existence. But why would you petition the FCC to urge the media to “self-regulate”? It's non-sensical -- unless  “self-regulation” is merely a first step. The “anti-censorship” Left is just getting started.

Reed Hundt, an FCC chairman under Bill Clinton, led a number of former FCC officials in a letter to FCC acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn (the daughter of Rep. Jim Clyburn) asking the FCC to use its muscle to force Snyder to surrender. They demand Clyburn apply the agency’s “unquestioned authority to convene an open forum with broadcasters to determine whether they should self-regulate their use of the term ‘XXXskins’ when referring to the Washington D.C football team.”  

The word “Redskins” is so apparently offensive they’ve made the team sound like a porn film. Here is the insanity: They'd be less offended -- and in some circles of the libertine community,  openly supportive – if Snyder renamed the team the “Foreskins.”

These liberals are not reflecting a nation's outrage. They are attempting to create it.

Only 11 percent of Americans (and ten percent of “native Americans”) are offended by “Redskins,” so Hundt & Co. are left with the weak argument of championing American apathy: “63% of those surveyed either would approve of broadcast TV stations not using the current name or do not care if broadcasters stop using that name. Only 37% would disapprove of broadcasters if they no longer used the name. Several media leaders, including Peter King (Sports Illustrated) and Mike Wise (Washington Post), have already recognized this shift and agreed to abandon use of the term ‘XXXskins.’”

Like most liberals, these letter writers claim their own “momentum” means everything, so they cite President Obama’s recent comments suggesting maybe a name change is in order. The letter went out before that pompous NBC hack Bob Costas ruined a halftime show by being a good liberal and declaring that, after 40 years of sportscasting, he too, suddenly decided “Redskins” cannot possibly be an honor of someone’s heritage, only a “slur.”

It really gets comical when these supporters of glorious free expression incidents, like Paris Hilton cursing at awards shows, have the unmitigated gall to pull out the “moral strength” card.   

“The image of Washington is prominent throughout this country and the world,” they plead. “To continue arguing that the name ‘XXXskin’ is an honor to Native Americans requires willful ignorance, which casts enormous doubt on team leadership. It is inevitable that this will make an already difficult situation in the nation’s capital worse. As all of us have learned in international diplomacy, strength is essential to leadership, and that includes moral strength.”

By contrast, Hundt has favored the “free expression” of Janet Jackson displaying a breast on national television in front of millions of children and their shocked parents during the Super Bowl in 2004. In a talk at Duke Law School in 2005, Hundt was outraged anyone would find that NFL incident lacked “moral strength.”  It was “sad to say a backwards journey of a million miles begins with a single (albeit silly) step.” In it, he detected sexual McCarthyism: “The FCC has generated the biggest threat to the First Amendment faced by the electronic media since the McCarthy era because it seeks to limit television viewers’ freedom of choice.”

Current broadcast indecency regulation doesn’t mention any football team names. It’s designed to prevent broadcast use of words and images which “in context, depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities or organs in a patently offensive manner as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium." Current law also only applies to broadcast TV, so the FCC can't regulate this football "profanity" on cable sports at ESPN and the NFL Network.  

The Left is only proving that they’re no more “anti-censorship” than anyone else. They’re making it plain that they want any alleged sign of racism, sexism, and “heterosexism” banned from television. But with Snyder, they’re trying to win the old-fashioned liberal way: where they can’t regulate, they’ll intimidate a businessman into a private-sector surrender.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center