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Obama on Redskins: ‘Legitimate concerns’

Updated: October 5, 2013, 4:35 PM ET

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says he would “think about changing” the Washington Redskins‘ name if he owned the football team as he waded into the controversy involving a word many consider offensive to Native Americans.

Obama, in an interview with The Associated Press, said team names such as the Redskins offend “a sizable group of people.” He said that while fans get attached to the names, nostalgia may not be a good enough reason to keep them in place.

“I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things,” he said in the interview, which was conducted Friday at the White House.

An avid sports fan who roots for his hometown Chicago Bears, Obama said he doesn’t think Washington football fans are purposely trying to offend American Indians.

“I don’t want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team and rightly so,” he said.

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

— President Barack Obama on ‘Redskins’

But he appeared to come down on the side of those who have sharply criticized the football team’s name, noting that Native Americans “feel pretty strongly” about mascots and team names that depict negative stereotypes about their heritage.

The team’s owner, Dan Snyder, has vowed to never abandon the name.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last month that the league should pay attention to those offended by the name — a subtle change in position for Goodell, who had more strongly supported the name in his previous statements this year.

Lanny J. Davis, an attorney for the Redskins, said the team’s fans don’t intend to “disparage or disrespect” anyone.

“The name ‘Washington Redskins’ is 80 years old. It’s our history and legacy and tradition,” Davis said in an emailed statement in which he also identified himself as an Obama supporter. “We Redskins fans sing ‘Hail to the Redskins’ every Sunday as a word of honor, not disparagement.”

Other professional sports teams have Indian names, including football’s Kansas City Chiefs and baseball’s Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians. Davis referred to fans of those teams and hockey’s Chicago Blackhawks in his statement, saying Redskins fans “love our team and its name and, like those fans, we do not intend to disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group.”

Numerous colleges and universities have changed names that reference Native Americans. St. John’s changed its mascot from the Redmen to the Red Storm, Marquette is now the Golden Eagles instead of the Warriors and Stanford switched from the Indians to the Cardinal.

The Redskins’ name has attracted a fresh round of controversy in recent months, with local leaders in Washington calling for a name change and some media outlets refraining from using the name. The name is the subject of a long-running legal challenge from a group of American Indians seeking to block the team from having federal trademark protection.

Congressional lawmakers have introduced a bill seeking the same goal, though it appears unlikely to pass.

“What a prudent and wise use of the bully pulpit,” Suzan Shown Harjo, a plaintiff in that case, said in an interview Saturday. “I am so glad that he said that and I hope that people hear a reasoned response from the president and will pay attention to this issue.”

Harjo said the issue “involves lots of hurt and pain and ongoing name-calling and bullying of our children that goes with this name. We just need to have an end to it.”

“There’s no such thing as a good stereotype, no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how good people feel about it,” Harjo added. “It still has negative ramifications for our people.”

“These are relics of the past. They should be consigned to museums and history books and people can feel good about them there,” she said. “But they should not be allowed in polite society.”

Opponents of the Redskins name plan to hold a symposium Monday at the Washington hotel hosting the NFL’s fall meeting.

“We really appreciate the president underscoring what we’ve been saying,” said Ray Halbritter, leader of the Oneida Indian Nation, a tribe from upstate New York that’s been campaigning against the name. “There’s just no place for a professional football team to be using what the dictionary defines as a racially offensive term.”

Halbritter said the NFL and Snyder could “borrow a page from the president” and use a decision to change the team’s name as a “teachable moment.”

Despite the controversy, an AP-GfK poll conducted in April showed that, nationally, “Redskins” still enjoys wide support. Nearly four in five Americans don’t think the team should change its name, the survey found. Only 11 percent think it should be changed, while 8 percent weren’t sure and 2 percent didn’t answer.

Obama said he doesn’t have a direct stake in the Redskins debate since he’s not a team owner. But he hinted that might be part of his post-White House plans.

“Maybe after I leave the presidency,” he joked. “I think it would be a lot of fun.”

“I’d probably look at a basketball team before I looked at a football team,” said Obama, who plays basketball in his spare time, has coached his daughter’s basketball team and is a fan of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. “I know more about basketball than I do about football.”

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press


Jets’ Hill cleared to play; Winslow could sit

Updated: October 5, 2013, 4:36 PM ET

Rich Cimini

Six days after sustaining a concussion, wide receiver Stephen Hill was medically cleared for contact Saturday and is expected to play Monday night when the New York Jets face the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

But the Jets could be without their leading receiver, tight end Kellen Winslow, who didn’t practice and is listed as questionable. Winslow, hampered by chronic knee pain in recent years, usually gets a day off during the week, but he sat three of four practices this week.

Hill suffered a concussion on the second play of last week’s game on a shoulder-to-chin hit by Titans safety Michael Griffin, who was fined $21,000 by the league for an illegal hit. Hill walked off slowly and didn’t return to the game. On Friday, he returned to practice wearing the red (non-contact) jersey, as mandated by league rules. He practiced fully on Saturday.

As expected, the Jets won’t have wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who was ruled out with a significant hamstring injury. It’ll be a patchwork receiving corps, especially if Clyde Gates, who sat out Saturday with knee soreness, doesn’t play. He’s questionable.

The Jets (2-2) could end up fielding a receiving group of Hill, Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson, who was signed Tuesday as a free agent. On Saturday, they swapped No. 5 receivers, signing Michael Campbell from the practice squad and releasing Ryan Spadola.

The good news for the Jets is they will be healthier in the backfield than at any point this season. Mike Goodson, who served a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, was added to the 53-man roster and is expected to make his Jets debut. He’s listed as probable, as is Chris Ivory, who sat out last week with a pulled hamstring.

Goodson could take over the kickoff-returning duties if Gates is out. This could be a difficult challenge for quarterback Geno Smith and the Jets’ offense, which committed four turnovers in last week’s 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans — all by the rookie quarterback. Because of injuries, only three players in the regular rotation practiced every day this week.

The Jets would miss Winslow, who leads the team with 16 receptions for 168 yards and a touchdown. They knew he was a medical risk, considering his history of knee surgeries. Concern over Winslow may have factored into the decision to claim former New England Patriots tight end Zach Sudfeld on Friday.

As expected, rookie cornerback Dee Milliner was ruled out for the second straight week with a pulled hamstring.

To make room for Goodson, the Jets waived linebacker Ricky Sapp.

  • Longtime Jets beat writer for New York Daily News
  • Syracuse University graduate


Hoyer has torn ACL, will miss rest of season

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer suffered a complete tear of the ACL in his right knee during Thursday night’s victory against the Buffalo Bills and needs season-ending surgery, coach Rob Chudzinski said Friday.

“I talked to Brian,” Chudzinski said. “Obviously he is disappointed. But if you know him, and you guys have been around him a little bit to know how positive he is and what type of person he is, he’s already thinking about when he’s going to be back. 

“I reassured him of that as well. I wanted him to know what he meant to us, but he’ll be back. He’ll make it back.”

The Browns again will turn to Brandon Weeden and hope that he plays more like the guy who did fairly well in relief against Buffalo than the guy who struggled so badly in Cleveland’s first two games, both losses.

What gives Chudzinski belief that he can get what he needs from Weeden?

“Because we have no other choice,” Chudzinski said. “That’s what we’re going to do. Everybody who plays, regardless of position, we expect to do well.”

The team was to assess what to do as far as adding a third quarterback during a meeting Friday afternoon. Cleveland could go with an inexperienced player, as it did with Hoyer, or it could reach out to an available veteran. If

If the Browns do pursue a veteran, it won’t be Josh Freeman, who was released Thursday by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ESPN Cleveland 1540 AM, citing a source, reported the Browns have eliminated Freeman as an option. 

Hoyer’s loss is a tough blow to a team and fan base that had been energized by the play of the Ohio native. The Browns (3-2) combined for 16 points in the two games Weeden started to open the season but were energized by Hoyer’s quick decision-making and accuracy in wins against the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals.

The injury to Hoyer came with suddenness and shock. He was hurt 3:57 into the game when he was hit by Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso as the quarterback went to slide following an 11-yard run. Alonso’s momentum took him over Hoyer’s chest, and the quarterback’s knees were caught awkwardly underneath him.

Hoyer immediately rolled over, his face expressing pain.

“It’s never good to see your quarterback go down in that fashion,” tight end Jordan Cameron said after the win.

Added Weeden: “You hate to see it. You hate to see it because he’s a teammate, a friend, and he was helping this team win.”

Both starting quarterbacks were injured in the game. Bills rookie EJ Manuel left after taking a shot to the knees from safety Tashaun Gipson at the end of a run. Gipson got up and celebrated after the hit, which angered Bills players and led one to call the Browns classless.

“I definitely don’t intentionally try to hurt anybody,” Gipson said. “I wouldn’t dare do that. I’m not that kind of player. It’s the game of football. Our quarterback took a shot. Their quarterback took a shot. Not to say that we were trying to go one for one, but it’s the game of football.”

  • Covered Browns, Cleveland sports since 1998
  • Previously worked at Fox Sports Ohio, AOL Fanhouse, Akron Beacon Journal/
  • Cleveland native, proud father of two daughters


Falcons RB Jackson (hamstring) out vs. Jets

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson has been ruled out for Monday’s game against the New York Jets because of a hamstring injury, coach Mike Smith said Saturday.

Smith held out hope that Jackson might recover in time to suit up. But the veteran running back was simply an observer at practice throughout the entire week.

Jackson suffered the injury in the first quarter of the Atlanta’s Week 2 win over the St. Louis Rams and hasn’t practiced since. A league source previously told that Jackson wouldn’t return until at least Week 7, when the Falcons face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Oct. 20).

The Falcons have a bye next week.

Jackson recently wrote an apology to fans on his personal blog and said he would not return until 100 percent healthy.

With Jackson sidelined, Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling will carry the load out of Atlanta’s backfield.

The Falcons previously ruled out middle linebacker Akeem Dent (ankle) and left tackle Sam Baker (knee). Omar Gaither will start for Dent, while Lamar Holmes replaces Baker.

  • Covered Bears for seven seasons at Chicago Tribune
  • Also worked at Chicago Sun-Times, Fresno Bee
  • Honorable mention, Football Writers Association of America for enterprise writing, 2002


Ravens part ways with veteran WR Stokley

The Baltimore Ravens cut wide receiver Brandon Stokley and re-signed tight end Billy Bajema for Sunday’s game at the Miami Dolphins.

Stokley was inactive last Sunday because of a groin injury and didn’t practice Friday. He caught nine passes for 79 yards for the Ravens in three games.

The Ravens added Bajema because they only had two other tight ends on the roster — Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson. Bajema was released earlier in the week to make room for offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, who was acquired in a trade from Jacksonville.

This was Stokley’s second stint with the Ravens. He caught a touchdown pass for the Ravens in their first Super Bowl victory in January 2001. The Baltimore Sun reported that Stokley could possibly be re-signed by the Ravens next week.

  • University of Maryland graduate
  • Lives in the Baltimore area with his wife and son