SBD/October 15, 2013/Media

Costas Defends Using "SNF" Platform To Address Redskins Name Controversy

Costas defended discussing the Redskins prior to Sunday night's game
NBC's Bob Costas appeared on "The Dan Patrick Show" yesterday to discuss his "SNF" halftime essay on the Redskins name controversy and said the reaction has been "much more muted" than his call for gun control last year following the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide. Costas said, "I had much more time this time. The difference, as you know, between one minute and two minutes is much greater in television than the difference between two minutes and three minutes. You have enough time to develop a thought. Even if some disagreed, I don’t think they could misunderstand where I was coming from. ... My point was this is not about a political correctness." Costas noted that he "wasn’t even calling for a specific action, although I was implying it," during his essay. Costas: "What I was asking the audience to do was to consider that even though -- and I went out of my way to say this, clearly no offense is intended, no one should think that Dan Snyder or any NFL official wishes to consciously ... disrespect Native Americans. But even though no offense is intended, isn’t it clear -- if you’re fair -- to see how some offense could legitimately be taken?" Costas noted the clamor to change the name has grown louder in recent months "because the issue has come to a head." Costas: "The issue is out there now. You have an active group that is pushing the issue, there’s a meeting that's going to take place in the next few weeks between NFL officials and the Oneida Nation representatives." He added President Obama and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have addressed the issue, and it has been "editorialized about in the Washington Post and other places." Costas: "It is now a front-burner issue in the NFL. It’s an NFL issue, it’s not a random political issue, and Washington was playing Dallas on our air last night.”

THE RIGHT PLACE FOR SUCH COMMENTARY? Patrick asked whether Costas is using his platform on "FNIA" for "what is maybe sports but also social causes." Costas replied, "Nonsense. ... No, it’s a football issue. It’s right there. It’s a football issue. You guys talked about it on the pregame show, to some extent." Patrick said, "I’m giving you a question based on the response, not what I think. I think that it is a sports-related topic. I don’t have any problem. But people are saying, have said already this morning, stick to sports.” Costas replied, "I’m not comparing this in importance, or comparing myself to any of those who crusaded for a worthy cause, but I’m sure that people said if someone wrote in a New York newspaper in 1947, or prior to that, saying, 'It’s wrong that there are not black players in Major League Baseball, stick to sports. Tell me who hit the groundball to short, don’t talk about Tommie Smith and John Carlos and their clenched fists'" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 10/14). Sports commentator Jackie Pepper said "SNF" "really is the appropriate time to say something like this." Pepper: "A lot of people have come out and said, 'Hey, I just want to watch football. This isn't appropriate.' But this was about football. It's a real issue, it’s a social issue." She added, "This is not the first time Costas has said something controversial … and it will not be the last" ("Showbiz Tonight," HLN, 10/14).

CURIOUS TIMING OR EVOLVED OPINION? FS1's Trevor Pryce noted Costas has been on TV "for 35 years and I am pretty sure he has used the name Redskins 10,000 times in his lifetime." Pryce: "The fact that he comes on TV yesterday and says that this is a racial slur, kind of makes me think, 'Are you trying to go with the popular choice?' Whether or not they change the name is not for us to debate. That is for the Redskins, the NFL and the Native-American community.” The Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay said, “In fairness to Costas, I do believe you are allowed to evolve in your opinion. Just because you used it in a telecast before doesn’t mean you have to agree with it.” But Pryce said, “Don’t try to be holier than thou and say because this is the popular sentiment right now and I’m Bob Costas, that I can all of a sudden say that this is a racist term” (“Crowd Goes Wild,” FS1, 10/14).

POLITICIANS SPEAK OUT ON NAME
: U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) said Snyder "has been in denial" over the name because the "truth is it's a racial slur." U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said, "Most Redskins fans have essentially embraced the name because they embrace the team and if the name were changed, because the team is so beloved, it is hard to believe that admiration would be in the least affected." She added, "I love this team, my constituents love this team. They don't love the name because they don't think about the name. When they hear the name, they are thinking about the players." Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) said, "It isn't just Dan Snyder that is involved here. ... The entire National Football League and Mr. Goodell, the commissioner, has to take responsibility because they're benefiting from this whole idea" (THEHILL.com, 10/14).
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