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President Barack Obama says if he was owner of Washington Redskins he’d think about changing team nickname

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(USA Today Sports Images)

The issue of the Washington Redskins' nickname is a hot-button topic, in a city that loves to debate hot-button issues.

President Barack Obama has some serious things to worry about, like the government being shut down. But the Associated Press, during an exclusive interview, squeezed in a queston to Obama about the Redskins' nickname and the idea that it is offensive and should be changed. And Obama gave an interesting answer:

"(P)eople get pretty attached to team names, mascots," Obama told the Associated Press. "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.

"But I don't want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team, and rightly so – even though they've been having a pretty tough time this year. But I think – all these mascots and team names related to Native Americans, Native Americans feel pretty strongly about it. And I don't know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have about these things."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is among the other powerful people who has said that it might be time to think about changing the Redskins' team name.

Many people in Washington are attached to the Redskins name and the history behind it. It's a bit surprising during this time of more important political turmoil in Washington that Obama would offer a potentially unpopular opinion on another controversial issue.

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UPDATE: On Saturday evening the Redskins released a statement from Lanny Davis, attorney for the team, on Obama's comments:

“As a supporter of President Obama, I am sure the President is not aware that in the highly respected independent Annenberg Institute poll (taken in 2004) with a national sample of Native Americans, 9 out of 10 Native Americans said they were not bothered by the name the ‘Washington Redskins.’ The President made these comments to the Associated Press, but he was apparently unaware that an April 2013 AP poll showed that 8 out of 10 of all Americans in a national sample don't think the Washington Redskins’ name should be changed.

"The Redskins respect everyone. But like devoted fans of the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Blackhawks (from President Obama's hometown), the fans love their team and its name and, like those fans, they  do not intend to disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group. The name ‘Washington Redskins’ is 80 years old - its history and legacy and tradition.  The Redskins’ fans sing 'Hail to the Redskins' every Sunday as an expression of honor, not disparagement."

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