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Opinion: Columnists

Obama should stick to basketball and leave the Redskins alone

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NFL,Redskins,Gregory Kane,Columnists,Barack Obama,Analysis

Oh, this is what America's football fans needed: the opinion of the nation's number one basketball fan about whether the name Washington Redskins should be changed.

That basketball fan is one President Obama, who should stick to commenting about his favorite sport and leave our football alone.

But Obama is liberal and a Democrat, which means he can’t resist poking his nose in where it doesn’t belong.

When asked whether Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder should change the franchise’s name, Obama could have said, “I’d rather talk about the upcoming 2014 NCAA basketball tournament.”

Instead, he said this:

"I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have about these things.”

Obama added, “Native Americans feel pretty strongly about it,” meaning whether or not the term Redskins is offensive. On that point, the president is absolutely correct, but not for the reasons he thinks.

I doubt that Obama has talked to many, if indeed he’s talked to any, Native Americans about how they feel about the term “redskins.”

Oh, I’m sure Obama might have talked to, or at least heard or read the commentaries of, Native American activists.

But Native American activists are much like black activists and Latino activists and fill-in-name-of-racial-or-ethnic-group here activists: They’re all pretty much convinced they speak for their entire ethnic or racial group.

And, of course, all these activists are wrong as wrong can be.

ESPN columnist Rick Reilly is a journalist who’s had the backbone not to cravenly cave in to political correctness and hop on the bandwagon of prominent journalists who refuse to either write, or so much as utter, the term “Washington Redskins.”

Reilly decided not to climb on some kind of moral high horse; instead, he decided to do a column based on his conversations with actual Native Americans.

One of those Reilly interviewed was Tim Ames, the superintendent of schools in Wellpinit, Wash. Wellpinit High School has a population that is 91.7 percent Native American.

The nickname for the school’s athletic teams? Redskins. And Ames has no problem with that name.

“I’ve talked to our students, our parents and our community about this and nobody finds any offense at all in it,” Ames said.

“It is not an insult to our kids. ‘Wagon burners’ is an insult. ‘Prairie n-----s’ is an insult. Those are very upsetting to our kids. But ‘Redskins’ is an honorable name we wear with pride ... In fact, I’d like to see somebody come up here and try to change it.”

Reilly also talked to Native Americans in what was once known officially as Indian Territory, Okla.

“It’s not going to be easy telling the Kingston (Okla.) High School (57.7 percent Native American) Redskins that the name they’ve worn on their uniforms for 104 years has been a joke on them all this time,” Reilly wrote. “Because they wear it with honor.”

Reilly interviewed a Choctaw English teacher at Kingston High, who claimed the name Oklahoma is Choctaw for “red people.”

According to Reilly, Brett Hayes said the term “redskins” is “a name that honors the people. The students here don’t want it changed. To them, it seems like it’s just people who have no connection with the Native American culture, people out there trying to draw attention to themselves.”

Hayes might not know it, but he’s just given us the classic description of an “activist" — someone trying to draw attention to either themselves or a cause, and the feelings of the majority of people concerned or affected can be damned.

In his comments Obama said the Washington Redskins name should be changed if it offends a “sizable number of people.”

And what if a “sizable number of people” view that name with pride, Mr. President?

GREGORY KANE, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.
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