At Washington's Training Camp, Fans Are Split On Name Change : Code Switch Weeks after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office deemed the Washington Redskins' name offensive to Native Americans, some football fans continue to support the team's name.
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At Washington's Training Camp, Fans Are Split On Name Change

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At Washington's Training Camp, Fans Are Split On Name Change

At Washington's Training Camp, Fans Are Split On Name Change

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Washington, D.C.'s pro football team has opened its training camp just a few weeks after the trademark registration for its nickname, the Redskins, was revoked. The U.S. patent office ruled the name as offensive to Native Americans. Still, pressure to change the name hasn't stopped fans from standing by their team, as NPR's Hansi Lo Wang discovered.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: It's been called disparaging to Native Americans, and President Obama told the Associated Press he's okay with losing it.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'd think about changing it.

WANG: So would Attorney General Eric Holder, who told ABC News,

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: I think the name ought to be changed. I think it is an offensive name.

WANG: But for longtime fan Pamela Cooper of Chesterfield, Virginia, there's nothing quite like the Washington Redskins.

PAMELA COOPER: There's something about when you say, Go Redskins. It just won't go the same with something else.

WANG: Cooper and Ann Thompson of Glen Allen, Virginia, braved the rain and pitched a tent near the Washington Redskins training center in Richmond. That's where they sold smoked barbecue to the hundreds of diehard fans armed with ponchos, giant helmet-shaped umbrellas and Thompson said, undying devotion to the team's name.

COOPER: We're used to Redskins. You know what I'm saying? I think they should keep the name.

RICHARD GRICE: I really don't think they should change their name. I don't see where it's offensive in any type of way or anything like that. I mean, Redskins for life, what can you say?

WANG: Although Richard Grice of Fredericksburg, Virginia, admits he wasn't always a Washington fan. So who were you a fan of before?

GRICE: Dallas Cowboys.

WANG: You've got a grimace there.

GRICE: I know right?

WANG: But he said the Dallas Cowboys would start looking more attractive if the Washington Redskins changed their name.

GRICE: I would think about it. I would consider going back.

WANG: On the other side the question is the National Congress of American Indians. They passed a resolution, calling the team name derogatory and offensive. In June, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cited that resolution in a ruling, canceling the team's trademark registrations. An appeal by the team's owner is expected, but is not yet filed. For Washington fan Grace Kelly of Warrenton, Virginia, it's all a legal technicality that doesn't mean much.

GRACE KELLY: The trademark thing is ridiculous because the next thing you know, they're going to tell us we can't wear a shirt that says Redskins because it's offensive to somebody. And I think that's just ridiculous.

WANG: Never - is how team owner Dan Snyder responded last year to the possibility of changing the name, which he recently said was not an issue. And Constance Hollemon of Petersburg, Virginia, says she agrees.

CONSTANCE HOLLEMON: Go Redskins - HTTR - hail to the Redskins. That's right - the theme song.

(Singing) Hail to the Redskins, hail victory.

WANG: Those lyrics though, do give pause to James Whisonant, of Richmond.

JAMES WHISONANT: Matter of fact, I don't even sing the song the last two or three years. I don't sing the song anymore.

WANG: Really, you stopped singing it?

WHISONANT: I stopped singing the song, honestly.

WANG: Because?

WHISONANT: Because of that feeling.

WANG: It's a conflicted feeling, Whisonant said because he's come to the conclusion that the name should go.

WHISONANT: I still feel great about the Redskins, but I don't feel great about the name.

WANG: Nicole Harris, of Richmond, said she's felt a similar feeling in the wake of recent debates.

Should they change their name?

NICOLE HARRIS: I think they should. You know, if anybody feels that they're offended by it, then I think it's something we need to think about and actually change the name.

JEFF COLLINS: If it offends some people, oh well. People get offended everyday by a lot of different things, you know.

WANG: Jeff Collins met Nicole Harris and her family for the first time at the Washington Redskins training camp. They sat down together for lunch at a local bar, even though they don't see eye to eye on this issue.

COLLINS: Let's win the Super Bowl this year.

HARRIS: I second that.

WANG: But after losing 13 games last season, that's a dream all Washington fans can agree on.

Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News.

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