Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump lent his support to the controversial Washington Redskins team name Monday in an interview with the New York Times. With the move, Trump aligned himself with GOP rival Jeb Bush, who came out in support of the NFL team's name last week.
“Honestly, I don’t think they should change the name unless the owner wanted to,” Trump said to the Times, when asked about the name considered by some to be a slur against Native Americans. The outspoken billionaire has not shied away from controversy during his campaign and said the movement against the name was a result of unnecessary political correctness, citing that it had been used for years. He also said some Native Americans are not offended by the name.
“I know Indians that are extremely proud of that name,” Trump said, according to the Times. “They think it’s a positive.”
Bush, with whom Trump has routinely traded barbs, came out in support of Washington's team name last week in an interview with Sirius XM’s "The Arena" radio show. "I don’t think politicians ought to be having any say about that, to be honest with you," Bush said, via ABC News. “I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive.”
Bush went on to reference a 2005 incident, back when he was the governor of Florida, in which the Florida State Seminoles were allowed to keep their nickname by the NCAA.
“We had a similar kind of flap with FSU, if you recall, the Seminoles. And the Seminole tribe itself kind of came to the defense of the university, and it subsided,” he said. “It’s a sport, for crying out loud. It’s a football team. Washington has a huge fan base -- I’m missing something here, I guess.”
Trump was not entirely sure his and Bush's joint support of the name would improve relations between the two GOP candidates, saying to the Times, "It’s progress," with a laugh. On the either side of the aisle, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton had previously called for the name to be changed.
The Change the Mascot campaign, a national group aimed at having the name changed, was quick to condemn Trump. "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," the organization said 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.”