Obama suggests Redskins name change; team's lawyer responds defiantly
President Barack Obama is the latest to weigh in on the subject of the Washington Redskins' name. In an interview with the Associated Press on Friday, the President said that if he owned the team, a change in nickname would be considered.
"I don't know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things," Obama said, adding that team names like "Redskins" offend "a sizeable group of people."
Several football writers, including TheMMQB's Peter King, have decided to avoid using the "Redskins" name altogether. Politicians have called for a name change, and opponents of the name vow to hold a protest outside the league's fall meetings, which start Monday in the nation's capital.
On Saturday evening, Lanny Davis, the team's attorney, issued this statement:
"As a supporter of President Obama, I am sure the President is not aware that in the highly respected independent Annenberg Institute poll (taken in 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 8 out of 10 of all Americans in a national sample don't think the Washington Redskins’ name should be changed.
"The Redskins respect everyone. But like devoted fans of the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Blackhawks (from President Obama's hometown), the fans love their team and its name and, like those fans, they do not intend to disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group. The name 'Washington Redskins' is 80 years old - its history and legacy and tradition. The Redskins’ fans sing 'Hail to the Redskins' every Sunday as an expression of honor, not disparagement."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has established slightly different positions on the subject over time.
“The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context,” Goodell wrote in a letter to Congress in June. “For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”
But in a more recent interview with Chad Dukes and LaVar Arrington on D.C.'s 106.7 The Fan sports-radio station, Goodell softened his stance -- to a point.
"I know the team name is part of their history and tradition, and that’s something that’s important to the Redskins fans," Goodell said last month. "And I think what we have to do, though, is we have to listen. If one person’s offended, we have to listen. And ultimately, it is Dan’s decision. But it is something that I want all of us to go out and make sure we’re listening to our fans, listening to people who have a different view, and making sure that we continue to do what’s right to make sure that team represents the strong tradition that it has for so many years.” "Dan," of course, is Dan Snyder, the team's owner. Snyder has said that he will never change the team's name -- “It’s that simple. NEVER -- you can use caps.”