In an interview with the Associated Press, President Obama said that if he were Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington D.C. NFL franchise, he would consider changing the football team’s name.
“If I were the owner of a team and I knew that there was a name of my team–even if it had a storied history–that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it,” Obama said to the AP.
Snyder, the Redskins owner, has said that he would never change the team’s name, but has been urged by Native American leaders, media outlets and U.S. lawmakers to change it. This is the first time that the president has publicly weighed in on the name-change debate.
Last month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who previously agreed with Snyder, shifted his stance on the issue slightly, saying that those who are offended by the name should be considered. “All these mascots and team names related to Native Americans, Native Americans feel pretty strongly about it,” Obama told the AP. “And I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things.”
U.S. colleges and universities have changed mascot names that were offensive to Native Americans. According to the AP, St. John University changed its name from the Redmen to the Red Storm, Marquette is the Golden Eagles instead of the Warriors and Stanford University was the Indians, now they’re the Cardinals.
Obama also said he understands that fans have a long-standing attachment to their team and they don’t “mean offense” by supporting them. “I don’t want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team and rightly so.”
NFL owners are meeting in Washington on Monday for their fall meetings and a protest against the team name is planned.
"The President has heard and given voice to the major national Native organizations, parents, educators and students who have long called for an end to race-based stereotypes in sports,"said Suzan Shown Harjo, a Native American policy advocate who is the lead plaintiff in the trademark challenge to the Washington Redskins name."These public slurs — even when used by enthusiastic fans who have no ill intent — cause harm and injury to our young people and can no longer be tolerated in polite society."
Obama said he doesn’t have a direct stake in the Redskins name debate because he is not a team owner, according to USAToday.com. But he hinted that it was an interest of his.
“Maybe after I leave the presidency,” Obama said. “I think it would be a lot of fun.”