President Barack Obama, locked in a bitter standoff with congressional Republicans that has shut down much of the federal government for the first time in 17 years, is pondering his next career move: sports team owner.
Asked about criticism of the name of the Washington Redskins football team, which has been called a racial slur by some Native Americans and U.S. lawmakers, Obama said he would consider changing it were he the owner. The football team’s owner, Dan Snyder, has long resisted doing so.
The president, a sports fan, said in an interview with the Associated Press that he didn’t have “a stake in this in the sense that I’m not a part owner of any football team,” though he went on to consider it as a possibility after leaving the White House a little over three years from now.
“Maybe after I leave the presidency,” Obama said, laughing, according to the transcript of the AP interview. “I think it would be a lot of fun. Although, I’d probably play -- I’d probably look at a basketball team before I looked at a football team. I know more about basketball than I do about football.”
Should he decide, Democrat Obama would follow the opposite path of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, a Republican who was a part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team before his career in the Oval Office.
Obama is an ardent basketball fan and has made an annual tradition out of appearing on the ESPN television network to make predictions for the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s basketball tournament.
The president is a frequent player, as well. When his campaigns wrapped up in 2008 and 2012, Obama spent part of each Election Day shooting hoops at a gym in Chicago. In 2012, he was joined by former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen.
Asked about the Bulls, his home team, at the close of his interview, the president told AP that “I think they’re going to be good this year.”
Redskins lawyer Lanny Davis said in an e-mailed statement that the president “was apparently unaware that an April 2013 AP poll showed that eight out of 10 of all Americans in a national sample don’t think the Washington Redskins name should be changed.”
“Like devoted fans of the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Blackhawks (from President Obama’s home town ), we love our team and its name and, like those fans, we do not intend to disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group,” Davis said in the e-mail. “The name Washington Redskins is 80 years old -- it’s our history and legacy and tradition.”
Obama said he understood fans’ attachment to the team’s name. Still, he said he would consider changing it, given that many find it offensive.
“People get pretty attached to team names, mascots,” he said. “I don’t think there are any Redskins fans that mean offense. I’ve got to say that if I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team -- even if it had a storied history -- that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”