Trump rips push to rename sports teams as 'politically correct'

"They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness," Trump complained of potential nickname changes by Washington's NFL team and Cleveland's MLB team.
Image: President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before boarding Air Force One for travel to Mount Rushmore from Washington
President Trump, pictured Friday, tweeted Monday about NASCAR's Bubba Wallace and the potential renaming of two sports franchises whose nicknames offend Native Americans. Tom Brenner / Reuters

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By Dareh Gregorian

President Donald Trump on Monday weighed in on moves by Washington's football team and Cleveland's baseball team to potentially change the names of their franchises, ripping the idea as "politically correct" and weak.

"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 days after both teams acknowledged they were considering new names.

Trump weighed in online shortly after White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked at a press briefing about the president's thoughts on the potential name changes. She said, "I haven't spoken to the president on that."

The tweet also came hours after Trump tweeted that NASCAR driver Darrell "Bubba" Wallace, who is Black, should apologize after a door-pull rope shaped like a noose and found in Wallace's assigned garage was investigated as a possible hate crime. Wallace was not the person who discovered and reported the noose, which the FBI found had been placed in the garage months before it was assigned to Wallace.

Trump called the incident a hoax and falsely claimed that episode, along with NASCAR's decision to ban Confederate flags from races, led to the organization's "lowest ratings EVER!"

Moves to rename the Washington and Cleveland teams have picked up steam in recent weeks as the protests over the death of George Floyd helped shine a light on systemic racism around the country.

Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington NFL team, said in 2013 that he would "never" change the team name, despite long-standing objections to it from some Native Americans.

Then-President Barack Obama was asked about the controversy in an interview with The Associated Press, and said, “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 sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”

Then-businessman Trump took to Twitter to say such controversies should be beneath a president.

"President should not be telling the Washington Redskins to change their name — our country has far bigger problems! FOCUS on them, not nonsense," Trump tweeted.

Snyder softened his opposition last week following pressure from corporations including FedEx, which owns the naming rights to the field where the team plays.

"In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name. This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks," the team said in a statement on Friday.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement that he is "supportive of this important step."