President Obama: ‘I’d think about changing’ Redskins name

October 5, 2013
(Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

Update: 1:43 p.m. – Lanny J. Davis, attorney for the Washington Redskins, issued a statement in response to President Barack Obama’s comments regarding the team’s name during an interview with the Associated Press.

Davis’ statement reads as follows:

“As a supporter of President Obama,  I am sure the president is not aware that in the highly respected Annenberg Institute poll (taken 2004) with a national sample of Native Americans, 9 out of 10 Native Americans said they were not bothered by the name the “Washington Redskins.” The president made these comments to the Associated Press, but he was apparently unaware that an April 2013 AP poll showed that eight out of ten of all Americans in a national sample don’t think the Washington Redskins name should be changed.

“We at the Redskins respect everyone. But like devoted fans of the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Blackhawks (from President Obama’s home town ),  we love our team and its name and, like those fans, we do not intend to disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group. The name “Washington Redskins” is an 81 years old – it’s our history and legacy and tradition.  We Redskins fans sing ‘hail to the Redskins’ every Sunday as a word of honor not disparagement.”

Published 1:13 p.m. – President Barack Obama said that if he were the owner of the team, he would consider changing the name to avoid offending Native Americans.

A Redskins spokesman declined on Saturday to comment on the matter. Tony Wyllie, the team’s senior vice president for communications, instead directed all questions regarding the name to the team’s attorney.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Obama said that he understood Redskins fans’ attachment to the name. But he also wondered if the attachment should overrule the feelings of Native Americans, who strongly oppose the name.

“If I were the owner of the team and I knew that the name of my team, even if they’ve had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it, the president said.

He later said: “I don’t want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team, and rightly so — even though they’ve been having a pretty tough time this year. But I think — all these mascots and team names related to Native Americans, Native Americans feel pretty strongly about it. And I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have about these things.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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