WASHINGTON – One ESPN anchor was suspended, and another employee of the same network fired, for using the phrase “Chink in the Armor” to describe a loss by the New York Knicks, led by their Asian-American phenom Jeremy Lin.
Now a public policy law professor at George Washington University is using that Lintroversy to draw new attention to a long-running debate over race and sports in Washington — the Redskins team name.
“Indeed, many call it the ‘R’ word,” says Professor John Banzhaf, who in the past has targeted the tobacco and fast food industries in high-profile legal proceedings.
He says American Indian groups have challenged the term “redskin” as a trademark for more than 20 years, but have had little success in court.
He’s now calling for a different tack — to challenge the broadcast licenses of TV and radio stations that use the word “redskin.”
Banzhaf says he successfully mounted a similar challenge years ago, when African-American roles on television, including on news broadcasts, were limited.
“I think the same thing could occur here, and the concerns about the use of the word ‘redskins,’ while predominantly brought by American Indians, have been echoed by many, many other organizations,” Banzhaf says.
As for whether the word “redskin” rises to the same level of offensiveness as the phrase “chink in the armor,” Banzhaf says, “My guess would be, far more people would find the deliberate use of the word ‘redskins,’ which has no other meaning, much more derogatory and offensive than saying that somebody has a chink in his armor, a phrase which appears in the news with regard to dozens of other situations.”
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