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Redskins owner Dan Snyder says he will "never" change controversial nickname.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder says he will "never" change controversial nickname.
Image: Steve Helber/AP/Press Association Images

Obama wades into controversy over Washington Redskins nickname

US President says he would “think about changing” team name if he was the owner.
Oct 5th 2013, 4:59 PM 4,405 16

US PRESIDENT BARACK Obama says that if he owned the Washington Redskins, he would “think about changing” the team name, wading into the controversy over a football nickname that many people deem offensive to Native Americans.

Obama, in an interview with The Associated Press, said team names like the Redskins offend “a sizeable group of people.” He said that while fans get attached to the nicknames, nostalgia may not be a good enough reason to keep them in place.

“I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things,” he said.

An avid sports fan, Obama said he doesn’t think Washington football fans are purposely trying to offend American Indians. “I don’t want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team and rightly so,” he said.

But the president appeared to come down on the side of those who have sharply criticized the football team’s name, noting that Indians “feel pretty strongly” about mascots and team names that depict negative stereotypes about their heritage.

Other professional sports teams have Indian nicknames, including football’s Kansas City Chiefs and baseball’s Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians.

Team owner Dan Snyder has vowed to never abandon the name. But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last month that the league should pay attention to those offended by the nickname — a subtle change in position for Goodell, who had more strongly supported the nickname in his previous statements this year.

Obama said he doesn’t have a direct stake in the Redskins debate since he’s not a team owner. But he hinted that might be part of his post-White House plans.

“Maybe after I leave the presidency,” he joked. “I think it would be a lot of fun.”

He added: “I’d probably look at a basketball team before I looked at a football team. I know more about basketball than I do about football.”

– Julie Pace, Associated Press

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