CREDIT: White House
The list of people questioning the name of Washington’s professional football team just got a new member: the president of the United States. President Obama told the Associated Press this week that he would “think about changing” the name if he owned the team:
Obama, in an interview with The Associated Press, said team names like the Redskins offend “a sizable 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 in the interview, which was conducted Friday.
Obama’s answer is hardly a full-throated rebuke of the name, but it’s significant that he weighed in and acknowledged the debate in a honest manner. This isn’t and never has been about “honoring” Native Americans with symbols of “strength, courage, pride, and respect.” It’s about attachment to a name that has significant football-related history behind it, and, as Obama noted, whether that should take precedent over people who see it is as offensive.
I’d argue that the answer is obviously that it shouldn’t. But nostalgia and attachment, as the president noted, can be tough to overcome. That’s another reason why having more Native Americans making their feelings known, as one tribe will do Monday near the NFL owners meetings, is so important: it puts a face to the people who this name represents and offends, making preserving a name simply for the sake of nostalgia (or, worse, for the sake of owner Dan Snyder’s financial motivations) much harder to defend.