Sportscaster and CNN contributor Bob Costas appeared on Don Lemon’s CNN show Wednesday and defended the movement to change the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. “Here’s what’s important here, Don. I am not a fan of runaway political correctness or cancel culture. But you have to be able to make distinctions. And as I said then, there is a clear distinction between Redskins and Chiefs, Braves, Warriors,” Costas said.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So, with the coronavirus spreading, the Ivy League is ruling out playing all sports this fall. Wow, look at that. That as professional sports leagues attempt to resume or begin their seasons. Hall of fame sportscaster and CNN contributor Bob Costas is back with me. Bob, thanks for doing a second hit here on the show. Do you expect to see more college sports being postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus? BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, absolutely. Stanford, which is acclaimed for its ability to balance academics and athletics and has a very broad range of athletic teams in high-profile sports like football and basketball but also in swimming and tennis and crew and fencing and all the rest, they just discontinued a whole bunch of sports in anticipation of lost revenues and not knowing what the campus situation is going to be. You might see in some cases, I guess there’s lots of possibilities, you might see, for example, you mentioned the SEC before the break, maybe they would just play conference games, but wouldn’t travel out of conference. That’s one possibility. But something you have to look at is if campuses are essentially empty or if they’re all learning virtually, there are no students at any of the games. Then isn’t it exposed completely as the sham it too often is? What would they be playing for in the case of football or sending out for basketball, except for television money? How is it part of a collegiate experience if the educational aspect isn’t even going on? Whether all the athletes attended or not, at least you can keep up the sham of the campuses operating in normal — in normal style. But if not, then isn’t the whole thing exposed as ridiculous? LEMON: Yeah, but, you listen, you know — I was — I am concerned about that, but, you know, I went to LSU, SEC, that’s a religion down there. There’s so much money tied up into, especially football and college sports, unlike the Ivy League. I mean, you really think that’s a real possibility considering all that dough that’s tied up? COSTAS: Yeah, it might not be possible to play. Remember, these players are not compensated. And I’m not saying that they should be. That’s a debate that I think often is discussed too glibly. Oh, everybody makes money except the players. A scholarship, if you’re really a student athlete, the full scholarship has tremendous value. But in this case, it’s worth pointing out that these athletes are not compensated. They do not have unions and protection in that way, like professional athletes do. And now you’re asking them to mingle amid the COVID-19 situation? I think it’s very problematic. LEMON: Mm-hmm. Just moments ago, you saw that I spoke with Indiana Pacers player Malcolm Brogdon, tested positive for COVID, feeling better, as he said, mild symptoms, he’s going to play in the NBA restart in just a few weeks. How successful do you think the upcoming NBA and MLB seasons will be? COSTAS: Two different things. The NBA just has to complete what they started. They’ll play a handful of regular season games before ceding the playoffs and then they’ll get right into the playoffs. The ‘bubble’ is the best possible approach, but as Adam Silver himself admits, it is not fool proof that ‘bubble’ could burst. One thing they’re going to have to do is make sure that everyone who works in the hotels, the entire hotel staff, is going to have to be within that ‘bubble.’ Otherwise, you’re introducing all kinds of external things that the ‘bubble’ is designed to keep out. So it’s their best bet. Could they do it? Yeah. And I sure hope they can. But I don’t think it’s 100 percent. In the case of baseball, even though it’s an abbreviated season, they hope to play 60 games before they get to the playoffs. And there is no ‘bubble.’ No fans. But they’re all playing in their home cities. They are returning to their homes. Who knows what can happen. They’ve got a 100-page protocol. It is hard to believe that everyone is going to follow every page in that protocol without fail. So, it’s a very difficult series of needles to thread. I hope they make it. LEMON: So, Bob, you know, let’s talk about this. I enjoy our conversations when we talk about what’s happening in the world, especially, you know, with social issues and race and so on and so forth and the removal of statues and names and all that. Washington Redskins, Amazon is joining Target and Walmart, announcing that they won’t sell merchandise for the franchise. Team owner Dan Snyder has stubbornly refused to change the team’s name for years. You have been talking about this for years, even caught some heat for it. Do you think it really happens now, Bob? COSTAS: Yeah, it happens because of the obvious and overwhelming commercial pressure. But the moral or logical case for it is no different than it was 30 years ago and no different than it was seven years ago when I talked about it on a halftime essay on “Sunday Night Football” on NBC. And here’s what’s important here, Don. I am not a fan of runaway political correctness or cancel culture. But you have to be able to make distinctions. And as I said then, there is a clear distinction between redskins and chiefs, braves, warriors. Get yourself a dictionary. No dictionary defines chiefs, braves, warriors, other such nicknames associated with Native Americans as automatically insulting, derogatory or a slur. But every dictionary defines redskins that way. And as I said that night, ask yourself, what would be the equivalent of redskins if applied to African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans? What would be the equivalent of that? And if you were starting a franchise today, would you even consider naming them the redskins? And I stipulated, went out of my way to stipulate that no one is saying that there is intentional insult here or that fans of the team are — hold any sort of animus toward Native Americans. No one is saying that. But at the same time, take a step back and consider it on those terms. This should have been gone a long time ago. Now, it will be gone, not because someone saw a light, but because they felt the heat. LEMON: Bob Costas, telling it like it is. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. I’ll see you soon. Be well. COSTAS: Thanks, Don. You also.