With Washington’s NFL team off to a 1-2 start and losing key players to injuries, the team is once again pivoting from football squad to political cudgel. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was asked in an interview with SiriusXM’s POTUS channel if he thinks the team should change its name, which is widely considered a racial slur against Native Americans.
“I don’t think it should change it,” Bush said. “But again, I don’t think politicians ought to be having any say about that, to be honest with you. I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive.”
The interview will air Friday as part of The Arena, a new show hosted by ABC News’s Rick Klein and ESPN’s Andy Katz that will focus on the cultural intersection of politics and sports.
Bush is hardly the first high-profile Republican candidate to take a stand against changing the team’s name—last fall, Ed Gillespie cut a television ad pledging to defend the name as part of his unsuccessful Senate campaign in Virginia—but Klein and Katz missed an obvious follow-up. Unmentioned in the interview is the fact that Washington team owner Dan Snyder has donated $100,000 to Right to Rise PAC, which is aligned with Bush’s campaign for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination.
While Snyder’s largesse went unaddressed, Bush compared the fracas over the name of Snyder’s team to a 2005 decision by the NCAA to allow Florida State University to continue using Seminoles as the nickname for its athletic teams. But there are key differences between the cases. Florida State’s nickname and mascot are officially sanctioned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Washington NFL team’s name is widely despised in the broader Native American community, and has been regularly slammed by the National Congress of American Indians, the largest Native American political organization in the country, despite Snyder’s attempt to defray the controversy through charitable donations.