Trump Opposes Changing Team Names of Redskins, Indians

President Donald Trump said he opposes re-naming the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, dismissing as “politically correct” efforts to change what many view as offensive references to Native Americans.

“They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness,” Trump tweeted Monday. “Two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct,” he added.

Trump’s decision to weigh in on the debate over the National Football League and Major League Baseball team names is the latest example of him inflaming racial tensions as he faces sinking poll numbers over his handling of protests against police brutality and the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier Monday, Trump suggested that Nascar’s only Black full-time driver, Bubba Wallace, should apologize for a noose that was found in his garage, calling the incident a “hoax” and questioning the racing circuit’s decision to ban Confederate flags at its tracks.

The president’s recent comments have angered civil-rights activists protesting what they see as systemic racism in government and law enforcement but have also addressed the grievances of his mostly white base.

The president on June 28 tweeted -- then deleted -- a video of one of his supporters shouting “white power” at an anti-Trump demonstrator at The Villages retirement community in Florida. The White House said Trump did not see the statement, but did not disavow it.

In his team-name tweet Monday, Trump also took aim at Senator Elizabeth Warren, whom he has repeatedly insulted by using the racist moniker “Pocahontas.” Warren, who apologized last year for claiming Native American ancestry, was one of 50 U.S. senators to call on Washington’s football team to change its name in 2014.

“Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s tweets came on the heels of a pair of speeches over Independence Day weekend, in which he slammed demonstrators as “evil” people whose goal is the “end of America.”

“In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance,” Trump said during a Friday speech at the foot of Mount Rushmore. “It’s not going to happen to us.”

The NFL’s Redskins and MLB’s Indians announced they would explore name changes, as protests in response to the death of George Floyd have heightened scrutiny of symbols of racial inequality, such as Confederate statues and monuments.

Washington’s football team announced last Friday it was conducting a “thorough review” of its name, in a break with owner Daniel Snyder’s long-time insistence he would never change it.

The announcement came one day after FedEx Corp., the title sponsor of the team’s stadium, said it requested the team change its name. FedEx founder and CEO Fred Smith is a minority owner in the team.

Separately, Nike Inc. removed merchandise with the team’s name from its website.

The Indians followed, saying it would conduct a process to “determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.” The team removed its Chief Wahoo logo, which Native American groups have said is derogatory, from its game uniforms last year.

Crystal EchoHawk, founder and executive director of IllumiNative, in an interview with Bloomberg Television called for “a complete ban and elimination of all Native sports mascots. Native mascots cause psychological harm.”

Both teams have faced pressure for decades from civil rights activists and Native American groups to change their names. President Barack Obama in 2013 suggested the Washington NFL team should re-name itself.

At the time, Trump said U.S. presidents should not weigh in on sports teams’ names.

“President should not be telling the Washington Redskins to change their name-our country has far bigger problems! FOCUS on them, not nonsense,” Trump tweeted on October 8, 2013.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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