Is The NFL Weakening Defense Of Redskins' Name?

Tell Me More host Michel Martin and editor Ammad Omar crack open the listener inbox for Backtalk. This week, they talk about the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins' team name.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now it's time for Backtalk, that's where we hear from you. Editor Ammad Omar is back with us once again. What's going on today, Ammad?

AMMAD OMAR, BYLINE: All right, you spoke with Phil Yu of the Angry Asian Man blog this week. He's become one of the most popular bloggers out there. He writes all about the Asian-American experience and we got a lot of responses, including this from Francesca Kim (ph) of Rockville, Maryland. She says, quote, Mr. Yu mentioned that his dream is for an Asian-American to win an Oscar. Let him know that an Asian, albeit an Asian-Anglo man, has already won an Oscar for best actor. Ben Kingsley was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji to an Indian father and an English mother. He won the best actor award in 1982 for his brilliant depiction of Gandhi in the film of the same name, unquote.

But Michel, I'm going to take it one step further than that. If you go all the way back to the year 1956, a man by the name of Yul Brynner won the best actor for "The King and I". He moved to the U.S. when he was young, but he was born in Vladivostok, which is on the far eastern side of present-day Russia. A lot of people don't think of that as Asia but it most definitely is. But to be fair, Phil said he'd love to see an acceptance speech and I don't think he was around for that one back in '56.

MARTIN: I wasn't either but I still love that movie.

OMAR: Yeah.

MARTIN: Yul Brynner.

OMAR: Classic.

MARTIN: He was the man. That's right. Asian-American best actor Oscar winner. OK. What else do you have for us, Ammad?

OMAR: Yeah, you talked this week to a leader of the Oneida Indian Nation about the name of the Washington Redskins football team.

MARTIN: Yes, Ray Halbritter was on the program this week and his group is running radio ads like this one calling on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to use his influence to press the owners of the Washington team to change the team name that many people now consider racist.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The term Redskins is obviously wrong, insensitive and unacceptable. We do not deserve to be called Redskins. We deserve to be treated as what we are - Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Paid for by the Oneida Indian Nation.

OMAR: So, in the past, the commissioner and the league have pretty staunchly defended the team's name. They've said the term Redskins has always been a positive and respectful thing. But now it seems like the commissioner is at least softening his adamant tone a little bit. This is what Roger Goodell told the local radio station 106.7 The Fan, in Washington this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO INTERVIEW)

ROGER GOODELL: Again, we have to do everything that's necessary to make sure that we're representing the franchise in a positive way and that rich history and tradition. And if we are offending one person, we need to be listening and making sure that we're doing the right things to try to address that.

MARTIN: You know, the Washington team meets Green Bay this week and members of the Oneida Nation say they will be protesting at the stadium in Green Bay at the Onieda Nation gate at Lambeau Field no less.

OMAR: That's right and this story certainly isn't going anywhere. I think we're going to see a lot more of that this year. Last thing I want to mention, Michel, is that we're using the hashtag #NPRlatism as part of our Hispanic heritage month coverage. We're asking how Latinos are using new technologies in their everyday lives and how marketers are reaching Latinos using hashtags. That conversation's already started online. So use the hashtag #NPRlatism on Twitter and dime mas.

MARTIN: Dime mas, that means tell me more. Thanks, Ammad.

OMAR: Thank you.

MARTIN: And remember to tell us more. You can send us an e-mail to tellmemore@NPR.org. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, we're @tellmemorenpr.

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