President Barack Obama has thrown his support behind Adidas' initiative to help high schools drop Native American mascots -- and suggested the Washington Redskins do the same.
Speaking at the White House Tribal Nations Conference on Thursday, Obama praised the athletic apparel company's offer to provide free design resources to schools looking to shelve Native American mascots, nicknames, imagery and symbolism.
"What Adidas has done is it said to the 2,000-plus schools that still have Native American or Alaska Native mascots, is it said, 'You know what? We will work with you to redesign your entire sports brand," he said to applause.
"I don't know if Adidas made the same offer to a certain NFL team here in Washington, but they might want to think about that as well," he continued.
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Obama said in October 2013 that if he owned the Redskins, he would "think about changing" the team name. He said in an interview with The Associated Press that team names like the Redskins offend "a sizable group of people."
"I don't know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have about these things," he said in 2013.
Adidas announced its initiative on Thursday in conjunction with the White House Tribal Nations Conference. The company said it will be a founding member of a coalition tasked with addressing Native mascots in sports.
Eric Liedtke, the company's head of global brands who traveled to conference, said sports must be inclusive.
"Today's announcement is a great way for us to offer up our resources to schools that want to do what's right — to administrators, teachers, students and athletes who want to make a difference in their lives and in their world,'' Liedtke said in a statement to The Associated Press. "Our intention is to help break down any barriers to change — change that can lead to a more respectful and inclusive environment for all American athletes.''
The Redskins called Adidas' campaign hypocritical.
“The hypocrisy of changing names at the high school level of play and continuing to profit off of professional like-named teams is absurd," a statement from the team said. "Adidas make hundreds of millions of dollars selling uniforms to teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and the Golden State Warriors, while profiting off sales of fan apparel for the Cleveland Indians, Florida State Seminoles, Atlanta Braves and many other like-named teams."
According to the group Change the Mascot, there are about 2,000 schools nationwide that have Native American mascots.
The advocacy group says that about a dozen schools have dropped Native mascots over the past two years and another 20 are considering a change.
The use of such mascots has drawn increased attention and controversy in recent years. The Redskins have resisted appeals by Native American and civil rights groups to change their name and mascot.
In 2005, the NCAA warned schools that they would face sanctions if they didn't change Native American logos or nicknames. Some colleges kept their nicknames by obtaining permission from tribes, including the Florida State Seminoles and the University of Utah Utes.
Some states have taken action at the high school level. Last month California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that prohibits schools from using the term "Redskins.''
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently ordered the creation a commission to study the use of Native American mascots and come up with a list of recommendations for possible legislation.
In Oregon, the state Board of Education in 2012 ordered high schools to ban such mascots or risk losing public funding. The schools have until 2017 to comply.