Bob Costas: Why ‘Redskins’ is racist


In response to my remarks on NBC about the Washington Redskins team name controversy, Jonah Goldberg writes of his love and respect for words. So why, then, play so fast and loose with them?

Goldberg twice refers to my comments as a “tirade.” I defy any fair-minded person to view the two-minute piece in its entirety and find anything in its tone or content that remotely resembles a tirade. He later refers to my “crusade.” How does addressing a prominent football-related issue one time on the very night Washington was playing on NBC qualify as a crusade?

Goldberg writes: “It strains credulity to believe the team name was intentionally pejorative, or that fans or ownership see it that way today.” I went out of my way to stipulate that very thing. Or don’t the words I actually used matter if they get in the way of whatever point Goldberg is trying to make in this case?

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Goldberg is usually cogent, but we all have our blind spots and hot buttons. For Goldberg, it is the tendency to see liberal bogeymen lurking behind every issue. Always. Yet I clearly delineated the difference between the often silly politically correct objections to other team names and the singularly objectionable “Redskins.”

Are all who disagree with Goldberg on this one automatically craven liberals? Try that out on the brilliant conservative Charles Krauthammer, who has said that in a modern context, the term “Redskins” cannot be defended and is best not used. Or Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole, a Native American and Republican, who is among those calling for the name to be changed.

Every dictionary I have consulted has defined “redskins” with words such as offensive, insulting, pejorative and derogatory. No such words are part of the definition of Braves, Chiefs, Warriors or any other team name associated with Native Americans.

One would think a professed lover of words like Goldberg would appreciate that clear and compelling distinction, and recognize that many of those who have problems with the name “Redskins” are motivated not by liberalism or political correctness but by common sense and common decency.


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Bob Costas is an NBC sportscaster.

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