WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said the Washington Redskins should keep their controversial name despite complaints from some Native American groups and members of Congress that it is racist.
“I don’t find it offensive,” Bush said in a taped interview to air on Friday on the Sirius XM radio show “The Arena.” “Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive.”
Some Native American groups have said “Redskins” is a slur and are calling for the team to change the name.
“I don’t think (they) 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.”
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who has said the name expresses respect toward Native Americans and that he will not change it under any circumstances, gave $100,000 to Right to Rise, a Super PAC supporting Bush’s candidacy, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission.
A federal judge in July upheld a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that the name was “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus ineligible for federal trademark registration.
In 2005 when Bush was governor of Florida, the National Collegiate Athletic Association decided to let Florida State University keep its Seminoles nickname. The Seminoles are a Native American tribe originally from Florida.
“We had a similar kind of flap with FSU, if you recall, the Seminoles. And the Seminole tribe itself kind of came to the defense of the university and it subsided,” Bush said.
Several Native American groups, including the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, supported Florida State keeping the nickname.
“It’s a sport, for crying out loud,” Bush said. “It’s a football team. Washington has a huge fan base. I’m missing something here, I guess.”
Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s non-voting congressional delegate, introduced a bill earlier this month to strip the National Football League of its federal antitrust protection as long as it allows the team to use “Redskins.”
The Redskins had no comment on Bush’s remarks.
But U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, called Bush’s support of the Redskins name “extremely insulting to Native American people.”
“The team’s name is a racial slur that perpetuates negative stereotypes of Native American people and reduces proud cultures to an insulting caricature,” she said.
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Bill Trott