Bob Costas says Redskins’ team name is offensive during halftime essay

Frank Schwab

Bob Costas, in the powerful halftime slot of NBC's "Sunday Night Football," joined in the growing sentiment that the Washington Redskins' nickname is offensive and the team should change it.

In an even-handed essay, Costas said that the name is demeaning, despite no ill will being intended by anyone involved with the Redskins, including owner Daniel Snyder, or their fans. President Barack Obama recently said he would consider changing the name if he was the owner of the team, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league needs to consider the issue.

During his halftime essay, Costas brought up complaints about other team names like Braves, Warriors or Chiefs, and how that seems like "political correctness run amok," but said the Redskins nickname is different.

"These nicknames honor, rather than demean," Costas said.

Costas said names like Blackhawks, Seminoles and Chippewas are trickier, but are OK if the "symbols are appropriately respectful," something MLB's Cleveland Indians and its Chief Wahoo mascot haven't always lived up to.

Costas, whose halftime essays on end-zone celebrations in 2011 and gun control in 2012 became hot-button topics, closed his thoughts on the Redskins' name by saying it can justifiably be seen as offensive.

Here's the full transcript of Costas' essay:

"With Washington playing Dallas here tonight, it seems like an appropriate time to acknowledge the ongoing controversy about the name “Redskins.”

"Let's start here. There is no reason to believe that owner Daniel Snyder, or any official or player from his team, harbors animus toward Native Americans or wishes to disrespect them. This is undoubtedly also true of the vast majority of those who don't think twice about the longstanding moniker. And in fact, as best can be determined, even a majority of Native Americans say they are not offended.

"But, having stipulated that, there’s still a distinction to be made. Objections to names like “Braves,” “Chiefs,” “Warriors,” and the like strike many of us as political correctness run amok. These nicknames honor, rather than demean. They are pretty much the same as “Vikings,” “Patriots,” or even “Cowboys.” And names like “Blackhawks,” “Seminoles,” and “Chippewas,” while potentially more problematic, can still be okay provided the symbols are appropriately respectful - which is where the Cleveland Indians with the combination of their name and “Chief Wahoo” logo have sometimes run into trouble.

"A number of teams, mostly in the college ranks, have changed their names in response to objections. The Stanford Cardinal and the Dartmouth Big Green were each once the Indians; the St. John's Redmen have become the Red Storm, and the Miami of Ohio Redskins - that's right, Redskins - are now the Red Hawks.

"Still, the NFL franchise that represents the nation's capital has maintained its name. 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 toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or members of any other ethnic group.

"When considered that way, “Redskins” can't possibly honor a heritage, or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent. It is fair to say that for a long time now, and 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?"

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter.