When President Obama was asked the question of whether or not he thought the Washington Redskins football team should change their name, he said:
“If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”
Ever since I have followed politics, never have I seen a President of the United States voice his opinion so callously. Presidents traditionally do not comment publicly on issues that could promote ethnic or racial instability. To do so, only creates an unhealthy, atmosphere that breeds contempt and resentment.
However, when the President does, he usually is careful to do so in a manner that is more befitting of the Oval Office.
Why President Obama felt the need to answer the Washington Redskins question, is a mystery. Did Obama feel that this was a matter of national urgency and that his opinion was necessary?
Did he decide that the NFL team and the Oneida Indian Nation expects him to play arbitrator?
Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion and even Obama, but when the President of the United States gives his opinion, it holds a lot of weight. In a situation like this, where there are federal lawsuits pending, that opinion could be misconstrued as a direct and unfair influence.
Did Obama think that his answer would not put pressure on the owner of the Washington Redskins?
The team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, and a very small group of the Oneida Indian Nation have been battling over this issue for years.
In a 1999 decision, the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board revoked the “Redskins” trademark, saying, “It may disparage Native Americans and bring them into contempt or disrepute.” That decision was later revoked on the legality that it had not been filed in a timely manner.
Since then, new lawsuits have been filed by 7-members of other Indian nations.
In one of them, Blackhorse et al. v. Pro-Football Inc., the plaintiff, Amanda Blackhorse, is asking that the federal trademark rights of the Washington Redskins be stripped away. In the lawsuit, Blackhorse says that the team name is a “racial slur” and that it should not have rights to a trademark that insults or disparages American Indians.
In a case where there is a lot of media attention, and one which is outraging NFL football fans and team owners, is it appropriate for the President of the United States to publicly choose a side?
The decision in the case is likely to be rendered as early as this month or soon afterwards. Some legal analysts believe that this is reason enough for Obama to have stayed out of it.
The Washington Redskins football team has an enormous, financial stake in the matter. According to financial reports, the team currently has a $1.56-billion valuation, which makes it the fourth most-valuable franchise in the National Football League.
That is a lot of money and marketing value that could be at risk if the Redskins have to change their name.
Obama needs to stop stepping “out-of-bounds” and keep his undue and unwanted influence out of the sports world. Does Obama not have enough to do in Washington, D.C., with a dysfunctional government that has not passed a budget in 5-years and is at the brink of default?
Maybe Obama should think about changing the name of his congressional team, to something that is more appropriate and politically correct, like “The Do-Nothing Congress.”
Surely, that team could use a little “scalping” here and there.
© Joseph E. Rathjen – All Rights Reserved – 2013
- Owner Snyder addresses ‘Redskins’ name dispute (sacbee.com)
- Redskins Owner: We Won’t Change Our Name (nation.time.com)
- Debate over Redskins name follows team to Dallas (sacbee.com)