WASHINGTON— The FCC says the name of Washington NFL team, “Redskins,” does not violate broadcast indecency rules and the agency approved a license renewal for a radio station owned by team owner Daniel Snyder.
The agency late Thursday rejected a petition filed by George Washington law professor John Banzhaf III and three others. Banzhaf had argued that the name is a “derogatory racial and ethnic slur” that’s deeply offensive to American Indians and tantamount to obscenity and profanity.
Banzhaf, Louis Ramon Grimaldi, Jay Winter Nightwolf and Verona Iriarte all filed objections to the license renewal application for WWXX-FM, Buckland, Va., owned by Redskin team owner Daniel Snyder as part of his Red Zebra radio group. They questioned whether Snyder has the character qualifications of an FCC licensee.
Grimaldi, Nightwolf and Iriarte all incorporated the Banzhaf filing in theirs so the Audio Division treats that as the main one and references the Banzhaf pleading in its decision.
The FCC OKed the license renewal, saying in the decision signed by Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle that the term “Redskin” is not obscene nor profane.
In fact, the Supreme Court finds that to be considered obscene or profane, the content must depict or describe sexual conduct, among other things, according to the commission. The agency says the Redskins name doesn’t fit the definition.
The First Amendment and FCC rules prohibit the agency from interfering with broadcasters’ free speech rights so the agency doesn’t deny a license renewal based only on whether a listener or a group of listeners object to a station’s programming.
On the issue of Banzhaf’s claim that the word “Redskins” is hate speech and incites violence against Indians, the division says there are no provisions in the Communications Act nor in commission rules banning hate speech. The agency says it can take enforcement action if a station airs programming that “is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action” but the bureau determined that’s not the case here.
Banzhaf didn’t prove that Snyder lacks the character qualifications to be an FCC licensee, determined the bureau in dismissing the petitions to deny and approving the license renewal.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in September he finds the word “Redskin” offensive to him personally and that the team should pick a new name.
Snyder has repeatedly rejected calls to change the team’s name; he said the license challenge was without merit.