WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday said he opposes renaming the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, dismissing the “politically correct” efforts to remove names that many Native Americans view as offensive.
"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," Trump tweeted Monday.
The president also took aim at Senator Elizabeth Warren, whom he has repeatedly insulted by using the racist moniker "Pocahontas."
"Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now," Trump said.
Following calls for change from the community, lawmakers, and sponsors, including FedEx and Nike, the Redskins announced on Friday that they plan to undergo a thorough examination of the team's identity.
"This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks," the statement said.
"This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise, but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League, and local community it is proud to represent on and off the field," owner Dan Snyder said.
Head Coach Ron Rivera said the issue is of personal importance to him.
"I look forward to working closely with Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting Native Americans and our Military," Rivera said in a statement.
"I'm just cynical enough to not start celebrating yet," Greg Deal, a Native American artist who has spent years pressuring the team to change its name, said.
Deal said the national reckoning over racial justice has to include Native Americans.
"You can't pull down Columbus statues and talk about colonialism without including indigenous voices, because that's a group of people who were affected by those things first," he said.
Ed O'Hara, a nationally known sports branding expert who has helped several other teams around the country develop new names, also weighed in.
"It's about doing the right thing," O'Hara of SME Branding NYC said. "It's about appealing to the emotional side of how you consume a brand. I'd be very shocked and disappointed if they changed their colors."
So what other names would work?
"Redtails," in honor of the Tuskeegee Airmen, an African American unit that flew red-tailed planes during World War II?
Redhawks? The Washington Monuments? The Washington Generals?
"I like the details," O'Hara said. "It's also a hawk, beyond the plane. I don't think the word red is a problem. I think it may be a necessity."
But ultimately, he thinks the team already has a new name in mind.
Washington’s NFL team name has been a topic of debate for years, but has received major backlash over the past month. D.C. officials say unless Washington’s NFL team changes their name, the RFK site will not be an option for their new stadium.
"Dan Snyder should know, surely, there is no hope of bringing the team back with that name" Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D- D.C., said.
Josh Silver, one of the co-founders of the advocacy group "Rebrand Washington Football," said it appears momentum is building to change the team's name.
“I think there's a chance now," he said.
Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks also released a statement Friday stating her support for the new name. FedEx Field, the stadium where the team plays, is located in Prince George's.
"The team’s name is viewed by many as offensive, and we, therefore, welcome these actions that reflect their willingness to be a part of this historic moment. The team’s decision could speak loudly about their respect for all people and place them on the right side of history," she said Friday. "I believe it’s critical that as an American, a Marylander and a Prince Georgian, each of us feels this nation is as good as its promise.”
There is no word yet on what the name could potentially be changed to. Some recent suggestions include the Washington Warriors and the Washington Redtails.