The petition was originally submitted by George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf III in late September and concerned the license renewal of radio station WWXX-FM, which is owned by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and is one of the franchise's flagship stations.
Banzhaf argued that the nickname's offensiveness to Native Americans meant it violated the FCC's standard on obscenity and profanity and that the radio station's license thus shouldn't be renewed.
The commission's Media Bureau disagreed, saying that content must be of "sexual or excretory in nature" to be considered obscene and that banning the term could constitute a violation of the First Amendment's free speech rights, rejecting the profanity argument.
But in an interview, Banzhaf said he expected the defeat and that it's really just "round one" of the fight. He is asking the FCC to reverse past decisions, so he didn't expect the Media Bureau to side with him, the law professor said. He plans to appeal the decision to the full commission and, if necessary, to the federal courts.
Scrutiny of and calls to ban the Redskins name have increased over the past year and a half, with opponents saying the nickname is racist and offensive to Native Americans. Snyder and other team officials have maintained that the name isn't offensive.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled six uses of ''Redskins'' trademarked from 1967 to 1990, with the office saying that the Redskins name is ''disparaging of Native Americans.'' The team is currently appealing the ruling.
Activists are planning a protest at the Redskins' final home game of the season on Dec. 28.
Snyder has said he will never change the team's name.
- Ben Estes