All-Star Panel: Clash of the titans over the Washington Redskins

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 14, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB COSTAS, SPORTS ANNOUNCER: 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 cannot possibly honor a heritage or a noble character trait, nor could it possibly be considered a neutral term. It's an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present day intent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Bob Costas at the game last night with his thoughts on the team Redskins, and the name. And the owner, Dan Snyder, wrote this in a letter. "I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn. But we cannot ignore an 81 year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country. After 81 years the team name 'Redskins' continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from and who we are and who we want to be in the years to come."

We're back with the panel. George?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The normative question, should the name of the Redskins be changed, surely depends on the answer to an empirical question -- is a substantial portion of Native American community offended by this? I don't see the evidence for that and I think there are reasons for doubting that.

Let me give you two contrasting cases. The town of Pekin, Illinois near Peoria was named by its early residents after Peking, China. They named their high school football team the Pekin, Illinois Chinks. They had a skating rink they called the Chink Rink. Understandably, some Chinese-Americans got upset about this and after several tries they got it changed. Fine.

On the other hand, the University of Illinois had the Chief Illiniwek, a man who danced at halftime at the football games with the help of the Sioux Nation who helped put together a costume for the man. It was pioneered by a student of Indian Culture. The NCAA, which should be policing all the myriad corruptions of college football, came down like a ton of bricks on this, called it hostile and abusive. The Florida State Seminoles remain, the Utah Utes remain. The Chief Illiniwek is banned; it's capricious action by the sensitivity police and they ought to mind their own business.

BAIER: Including Bob Costas?

WILL: Bob is a great broadcaster and a good friend and wrong in this case.

BAIER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: I think it's a tough situation actually, especially because there's a lot of disagreement even over what Redskins mean. Some people say it's a European term that referred to the fact that Indians there painted their faces red. Other people say, no, it refers to American Indians being scalped, two very different things, I think. But if you look in the dictionary, in pretty much every dictionary it's referred to as an offensive term. That would give me pause if I ever happened to own a football to have that name.

And I think it is offensive. The fact that a lot of people don't find it offensive probably has to do with the fact that they probably don't know exactly what it means. But --

BAIER: It's about 90 percent don't.

POWERS: Yes, so that's an argument certainly in the favor of the Redskins owners. But the fact that our dictionaries refers to this as an offensive term that none of us would use, none of us would ever refer to an American Indian in that way.

BAIER: President Obama weighed in and agreed with you, Kirsten, and said he would change it. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'm not able to achieve high dungeon like Costas or like my friend George on the other side. I'm in a low dungeon over this. I think this is not something that is sort of a matter of principal.

And I respect the Snyder position. I don't think there's any intent of malice. There's no intent of a slur and there is 80 years of history. But words have histories of their own and they evolve. The word negro 50 years ago was the most respected word in referring to an African-American. It was used 15 times by Martin Luther King in the "I have a Dream" speech.  And 50 years later it's considered because of its own history having to do with black power, and other, it's a complicated history. It's become a word that is patronizing. You would never say there are 30 negroes in the U.S. House. You wouldn't say that.

In the same way Redskins has evolved. And despite its history, it is now considered a slur. Growing up I used to use the word gyp. I never knew until I became an adult that is was a shortening of gypsy, and I didn't take a poll of gypsies at that point to see how many are offended. I stopped using it. It's very easy to do. It's nothing to do with the sensitivities of a mass of people. It has to do with a decent, simply, elementary respect. You don't use that word if you can avoid it.

WILL: Never say you welched on a bet, by the way.

KRAUTHAMMER: Or Jew someone out of a deal.

WILL: Exactly. This came to a rolling boil because the president was asked a question, and like all presidents, he answered it. Presidents are evidently expected to have opinions about absolutely everything. I hope to live long enough to have a president who when asked a question about this or Michael Jackson's death or anything else, says, you know, that's really none of my business.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well we agree on the president's loquacity but we disagree on the decency of using a term that has evolved into a slur.

BAIER: But one last try. If the empirical evidence shows that 90 percent of the people including perhaps a lot of Native Americans are not offended by the Washington Redskins, to George's point?

KRAUTHAMMER: If you're an American Indian with high rates of unemployment, illiteracy, and alcoholism, I think it ranks pretty low on your scale of concerns, and probably a lot of them will say, who cares? But it matters on the part of those who use it, and we shouldn't if we can avoid it.

BAIER: That is it for the panel, but stay tuned to see the White House press corps working in harmony. Plus the results of our SR Bing Pulse next. 

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