Many Native Americans are “extremely proud” that the term “Redskins” is the name of Washington, D.C.’s football team, according to Donald Trump.
In remarks reported by the New York Times on Monday, the Republican presidential candidate said he agreed with his rival Jeb Bush that the NFL team should not change its controversial name, which is a dictionary-defined racial slur.
“Honestly, I don’t think they should change the name, unless the owner wanted to,” he said. “I know Indians that are extremely proud of that name.”
The majority of American Indians find the name “Redskins” offensive, according to the most recent polling. The 2014 poll from California State University, San Bernardino found that 67 percent of American Indians agreed that the term is “a racial or racist word and symbol,” while 12 percent were neutral and 20 percent disagreed.
Trump’s support for the name is not the first time he has clashed with Native Americans.
Last month, the Republican front-runner expressed outrage over President Obama’s decision to restore Mount McKinley’s name back to Denali, its indigenous Alaskan name. Trump promised to reverse that decision if elected president, saying it was a “great insult to Ohio” that the Alaskan Mountain was no longer named after the Ohio-born former president, who had never been to Alaska.
Trump also had a rocky relationship with Native American communities in upstate New York, because of their competing casino businesses. To discourage business in those Native-owned casinos, Trump funded ads that attempted to characterize the community as criminal drug users. “Are these the kind of neighbors we want?” the ads asked, referring to Native Americans.
When those casinos began doing better than Trump’s, he became unhappy, and later accused the casino owners of not being authentic Native Americans during a Congressional Subcommittee Native American Affairs hearing.
“‘They don’t look like Indians to me,” he said at the time, “and they don’t look like Indians to Indians.”
That comment drew “gasps and puzzled looks of disbelief” from the mostly-Native American audience in 1993. Now, Trump’s relationship with the community does not seem to be doing any better.
“It is hardly surprising that a candidate who labeled Mexican immigrants rapists and calls women ‘pigs’ now says he wants the NFL to continue slurring Native Americans,” said the group Change the Mascot, led by the National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Indian Nation, in a statement. “Donald Trump joins some of the NFL’s ignoble fraternity of billionaires who sit in their office suites and owners boxes happily spending their fortunes denigrating people of color.”