Obama might change Redskins name if he were owner
October 5th, 2013
05:43 PM ET
1 year ago

Obama might change Redskins name if he were owner

(CNN) – One of the more controversial fights in Washington, D.C. isn't over the budget or Obamacare. It's about a football team's name.

And now President Barack Obama is weighing in.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Obama said if he were the owner of the Washington Redskins, and he knew the name was "offending a sizable group of people," then he would "think about changing it."

Ever the politician, Obama suggested that he understands the fervor of a loyal sports fan. But mascots and team names related to Native Americans can elicit strong feelings, he added.

"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.

Redskins attorney Lanny Davis, responded to Obama's comments, stating that the team honors a "legacy and tradition" that does not intend to "disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group."

Davis, in his statement, mentioned other teams with names that reference Native Americans, such as the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Blackhawks, who hail from Obama's home town.

The statement also mentions an April 2013 AP poll that found most Americans don't think the Washington Redskins name should be changed - pushing back on Obama's comment that the number of people offended by a mascot could be a deciding factor on whether to change it.

However, there are Americans who do take issue with the name.

One such group is the Oneida Indian Nation.

"As the first sitting president to speak out against the Washington team name, President Obama's comments are truly historic," said Oneida representative Ray Halbritter. "The use of such an offensive term has negative consequences for the Native American community when it comes to issues of self-identity and imagery."

The group is holding a symposium in Washington on Monday focused on the campaign to change the team mascot. The symposium coincides with the NFL fall meeting in the capital.

Until recently it seemed that a name change had little traction in the NFL itself. But, last month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who had previously expressed support for the team mascot, changed his tone on the radio show "The LaVar Arrington Show with Chad Dukes" on 106.7 The Fan in Washington.

"I want all of us to go out and make sure we're listening to our fans, listening to people of a different view, and making sure that we continue to do what's right to make sure that team represents the strong tradition and history that it has for so many years," Goodell said.

In the end, even Goodell said the decision over whether or not to change the name lies with Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Snyder has vehemently refused to consider changing the name, stating it will never happen.

The team mascot also faces opponents on Capitol Hill. A bill introduced in Congress in March seeks to deny the team federal trademark protection.


Filed under: President Obama • Washington D.C.
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Marvin Bauman

    " If Dan Snyder doesn't act, I will. "

    October 5, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  2. bill

    and the dick-traitor has spoken. praise obama

    October 5, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  3. Thomas

    U.S. commandos seize al Shabaab leader in Nairobi attack response.

    Thank you Mr. President !

    As for the red skins , why not the K street stompers ?

    October 5, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  4. ED1

    We should all be glad he is not just another stupid thing Obama says.

    October 5, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  5. Mary

    To whom this may concern,
    I'm an active duty member in the Navy and so is my husband. My husband was suppose to receive his bonus on October 1st. He never received it. People are getting killed (the shooting outside Capitol Hill) and setting themselves on fire, military and government workers are not getting paid correctly and what's incredible is the fact that Congress can sleep at night. I'm sure they're aware and they can see the problems the country is facing and how the Americans are handling the situation but it seems to me like they don't care enough to take any action. Now it's the weekend and nothing will be done. But I can say I'll be on a nuclear powered ship standing duty tomorrow and my husband will be going to work as well. Re-enlistment is no longer a question in my mind. Hopefully this will come to an end and people will get back what they deserve. But as I can see Congress' plan is to wait until last minute and see what they can get out of this and Americans will continue to be lead down a path of destruction in the mean time. .

    October 5, 2013 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  6. Woman In California

    Oh here come the hateful, reich-wing nutcases. Doesn't he have better things to do, blah, blah, blah.

    He's the president (you're not) and he was asked (not you) so he gave his opinion.

    Changing the name of the WRs has been discussed for many years in vain. The name should never have been used in the first place. Just like the "n" word and so many other offensive names to minorities in this country, it was all about asserting power, privilege, stepping on the oppressed and making money. Although nothing will change, thank you President Obama was speaking out against it.

    October 5, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  7. herbrichie

    OK, but make the Braves stop doing that Tomahawk thing.

    October 5, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    leave the name a-lone

    October 5, 2013 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  9. Average American

    First of all, the President of the United States needs to worry about and work on other problems other than the name of a football team. Secondly, if you want to start getting rid of racism, first you must not consider yourself or refer to yourself as being any race. Thirdly, all official forms of any kind need to have the sections for 'ethnicity' removed completely and made illegal to put on a form. Then, all special programs, scholarships, award shows, and any other type of race segregating organization needs to be disbanded, abolished and made illegal. Yes, this means everything from the Latin Grammies, BET channel, to the KKK. But that's probably not going to happen, so let's put pressure on a football team to change a name that is mildly offensive. Meanwhile, your children may not get that scholarship based on their merits because unfortunately he/she was not of the right 'race' or ethnicity. Those people fighting for the rights of this race or that race are not fighting against racism; they are fighting for racism.

    October 5, 2013 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  10. zolaholt

    Hard to imagine what Obama could do to earn enough money to buy a football team. But encouraging to know he's willing to change something that is "offending a sizable group of people."

    October 5, 2013 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  11. boungiorno

    racist and you arent above the law

    October 5, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  12. Mike

    Let's see; We have a 17 Trillion Dollar Deficit, We have a Congress that has made a mockery of the US Government, Actual Unemployment is around 23%, >50%for African Americans, High School Graduates are reading on a 5th Grade Level, Don't even mention math, My Insurance Premiums didn't go down $2,500.00, In Michigan kids can't play tag in school, Global warming is causing the Ice Pack to grow?, In a survey on the street yesterday, 75% of people polled said they preferred Obamacare over the Affordable Health Care Act, a Motorcycle gang conducting an illegal act in NY assaults a family and one of the gang members gets run over while the man tries to save his family and there is talk of charges againts the man driving, and Headline news is that our President would consider changing the name of a Football Team. God Grant me patience But Hurry.

    October 5, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  13. boungiorno

    possibility of that being true 100%

    October 5, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  14. Larry

    in a purely hypothetical situation " Obama said if he were the owner of the Washington Redskins, and he knew the name was "offending a sizable group of people," then he would "think about changing it" WOW even in a pretend situation he won't take a definitive position, I wonder what would happen if he thought he really was the president !

    October 5, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  15. James

    Who cares what "Big O" thinks–

    October 5, 2013 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  16. oharris30

    Before the Obama haters arrive, the president was asked a question which he answered very well.

    October 5, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  17. Pandamonius

    Get real. This is nothing more than a balancing piece, trying to make Obama look bad in order to make up for all the positive articles about him.

    Obama's currently a politician. Of COURSE he's going to say he'd be open to changing it if people were offended. If he actually were the owner, and NOT politician, he'd tell them that anyone who had a problem with the name could get over it.

    October 5, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  18. geronimo

    This is just something else to divert attention from Obama's rampant campaign of destruction in America. Here's news, Barry–you're NOT the Redskins owner. But wait–while you're at it, you should think about changing the "Fighting Irish" as well. What is your pompous position on that?

    October 6, 2013 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  19. simplyput

    Chiefs is not a negative; how about Washington Warriors?

    October 6, 2013 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  20. joel hudlow

    obama isnt a native american indian.My grandmother was and went to redskin games my father was half indian and loved the redskins with a passion.His 6 children also love the redskins.I personally could care less what obama thinks.Every time he opens his mouth alot of liberal bull flows from his lips.The world will never be a liberal place where every body will agree.The people that are insulted by the name are insulted by choice.Redskin fansadmire the american indian and being a quarter indian myself the name doesnt intend anything but respect for the indian.The american indians were spartans who were whipped by technology.The american people are spartans and thats why they are free.People who think like obama will try to turn us into sheep.Liberal laws destroy freedom.There will always be an attack on freedom.Its too bad it comes regularly from the democrats.

    October 6, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  21. chris cox

    i have always thought the washington redskins football team name was more of a tribute to the seminal, pomo, and oneida* indian tribes, "*which i admit, i have not heard of until now", but i am friendly to ALL native american indian tribes and am very surpised any native american indian tribe would offended by this teams name. BTW i am a caucasian american, born in van nuys california in the 1970's currently living in idaho.

    October 6, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  22. w l jones

    What Al sharpton would say if they the Washington football team change name to the Indigenous Blackskin. !( LOL)!

    October 6, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  23. wendel

    big deal you don't seem to like his opinion on any of the major issues so why bother printing his opinion on this. ???? The president as a citizen can say what he wants and I agree with him but why are you not reporting on the major issues like the shut down.??

    October 6, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  24. woohooman

    The name of an NFL franchise......is absolutely ZERO business of the Federal Government.

    October 6, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  25. California

    I'm Cherokee Indian and I'm proud of the Redskin name.

    October 6, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |