“For me, if it’s offending anyone . . . I think you should consider changing the name,” he said.
The Redskins have played their home games at FedEx Field in Landover since 1997. Baker’s comments echo those made by President Obama this month and come after Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.), who represents much of the county, signed onto House legislation that would strip the name of trademark protections. The team has been under increasing pressure from some Native American groups and sports columnists to drop the name, which they consider a racial slur.
Baker, who attends some of the team’s home games, said he understood fans’ attachment to the name. “They say it as a symbol of pride, so they’re very emotional about it,” he said. “But . . . you’ve seen people do it, and it’s worked out. The Bullets are no longer the Bullets; they’re the Wizards.”
The county executive was careful not to criticize team owner Daniel Snyder, who has steadfastly opposed a change. In a letter to fans last week, Snyder defended the moniker, saying that while he respects “the opinions of those who are offended by the team name . . . we cannot ignore our 81-year history.”
Baker said the team is highly valued in Prince George’s. “They have been great partners of ours in the county and have worked with us. I think we’ll continue to do that,” he said. “I’ve talked to the owners and the folks at the organization, and they’ve always come through in helping us out.”
He added that fans would support the team no matter what it’s called. Redskins management, he said, “will see that the people of the county will rally around whatever the name is changed to.”
Baker joins a growing list of public figures who have gone on record about the team’s name in the wake of Obama’s comments.
On Tuesday, Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, the New York-based organization that combats anti-Semitism, said “teams like the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians have a responsibility to be sensitive to the legitimate hurt that offensive names, mascots and logos cause.”
Columnist Charles Krauthammer has taken on fellow conservatives pundits, including Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, over the name.
“I’m not a guy who is usually politically correct,” Krauthammer said last week on WJLA’s “Inside Washington.” “But if it were personally my choice, I think it’s over the line.”
Annys Shin and Miranda S. Spivack contributed to this report.