WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission is considering a petition that would define the word “redskin” as a racial slur, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said this week.
If the rule is approved, the agency could issue sanctions against broadcast stations that use the term — including references to the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Variety reported.
In comments to reporters, Wheeler said that the FCC “will be looking at that petition, we will be dealing with that issue on the merits and we’ll be responding accordingly.”
The idea of punishing stations for using the word came from a petition filed by George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf earlier this month, according to Variety. Banzhaf is challenging the license of team owner Dan Snyder’s WWXX-FM radio station, and contends that the word is an “offensive demeaning racial swear word.” The FCC does has authority to sanction stations for indecent or obscene content.
Last year, former FCC chairman Reed Hundt, along with other communications executives, sent a letter to Snyder urging him to change the team’s name. They argued that, while broadcasters would never think of using other racial epithets, they routinely use the name of the Washington football team.