Donald Trump is not happy about the Washington Redskins changing their name and now the White House says it has proof the move does not have the support of Native Americans.
The Redskins confirmed this week that the team is changing its name following pressure from sponsors over a moniker widely criticised as a racist slur against Native Americans.
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Washington announced earlier this month that the Redskins name had been placed under review after a wave of rallies against racial injustice swept across the United States following George Floyd's death on May 25.
"Today, we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review," the NFL team said in a statement on Monday.
A replacement name was still being worked upon, the statement added.
President Trump last week slammed the "political correctness" behind the decision to change the Redskins name, arguing that it put in place all those years ago out of respect for Native Americans.
They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct. Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020
Now the White House has doubled down on Trump's tweet, claiming it has proof that Native Americans feel the name change is unnecessary.
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a briefing that president Trump feels Native Americans would be most unhappy about the Redskins changing their name.
“His tweet made it clear that these teams named their teams out of strength, not weakness, and he talked about the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians looking at changing their names,” McEnany told reporters.
“He says that he believes the Native American community would be very angry at this and he does have polling to back him up,” she continued.
The White House claims a Washington Post poll from 2016 showed that nine in 10 Native Americans did not find the Redskins name offensive.
“The Washington Post notes that many of these Native Americans voiced admiration for the team name like Barbara Bruce who said, ‘I’m proud of being Native American and of the Redskins. I’m not ashamed of that at all. I like that name.’”
“Gabriel Nez, another 29-year-old from the Navajo community: ‘I really don’t mind. I like it.’
"There are several other comments like this in the Washington Post,” McEnany added.
Washington owner Dan Snyder had long resisted calls to change the team's name but faced mounting demands to rethink that position as protests erupted against systemic racism after the death of unarmed African-American man Floyd during his arrest by police in Minneapolis.
Contrary to the opinions of Trump and his White House spokespeople, Native American leaders had written to the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last week demanding an immediate change of the team's name, logo and mascot.
Washington announce change after external pressure
Intense pressure from the team's most powerful corporate partners are widely believed to have forced the move.
FedEx, which purchased the naming rights to the team's stadium through to 2025 for $205 million, confirmed earlier this month it had requested the change.
"We believe it is time for a change," PepsiCo had said, while Nike removed the team's merchandise and gear from its website.
Bank of America said as a sponsor, it had "encouraged the team to change the name".
NFL chief Goodell had also lobbied the team behind the scenes to consider a name-change, according to reports.
The team was established in 1932 as the Boston Braves and took on its current name in 1933 before moving to Washington DC four years later.
Until now, team owner Snyder had emphatically rejected requests to drop the Redskins tag.
"We'll never change the name," he told USA Today in 2013. "It's that simple. NEVER -- you can use caps."
The Washington Post reported that the team had a preferred choice for a replacement name, but were working through trademark issues surrounding the tag.
Ron Rivera, one of only a handful of minority head coaches in the NFL, said earlier this month that he believed the new name should be respectful of Native American culture and the military.