The controversy over the NFL’s Washington Redskins team name “isn’t high” on the Native American agenda, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told ABC Friday, but she added that it’s “surprising” the football franchise has yet to change its name. As Secretary of the agency overseeing the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Jewell works to uphold trust and treaty obligations with Native American tribes.
“Personally, I think we would never consider naming a team the ‘Blackskins’ or the ‘Brownskins’ or the ‘Whiteskins,’” said Jewell. “So, personally, I find it surprising that in this day and age, the name is not different.”
“But in talking with tribal leaders, this has not been the issue that they have talked about with me, and I think that there is debate, even among the Native American community, on the Washington Redskins, and certainly there are a lot of people who have pride in that team,” Jewell added. “So, my personal views are not necessarily reflected in the tribes that I talk to.”
Fellow cabinet member Attorney General Eric Holder went further in his comments with ABC earlier this year, saying that he personally believes the Redskins name is “offensive” and should be changed. That view is supported by 50 independent and Democratic senators, who called the name “Redskins” a “racial slur” in a recent letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell advocating to change the name of the Washington franchise. President Barack Obama has signaled that he is open to changing the name; Redskins owner Dan Synder has vowed to never change it.
An ESPN poll released this week found the percentage who think the Redskins name should be changed has nearly tripled since 1992 to 23%. Still, the vast majority of Americans—71%—believe the team should be allowed to keep its name, according to the poll.