Native American leaders visiting the White House on Tuesday thanked President Obama for suggesting that he would change the name of the Washington Redskins.

Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter — who has led Native American protests against the name — thanked the president during the meeting in the Roosevelt Room, The Associated Press reported. Other leaders in the meeting applauded.

In an interview with the wire service last month, the president said that if he owned the team, he would weigh changing a name that offended "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," Obama said.

Redskins attorney and The Hill columnist Lanny Davis rebutted the president's comments with a statement highlighting polls in which a majority of those surveyed said they were not bothered by the name and did not believe it should be changed.

"We at the Redskins respect everyone," Davis said in a statement. "But like devoted fans of the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Blackhawks (from President Obama's home town), we love our team and its name and, like those fans, we do not intend to disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group.

"The name 'Washington Redskins' is 80 years old — it's our history and legacy and tradition. We Redskins fans sing 'hail to the Redskins' every Sunday as a word of honor not disparagement."

The president is scheduled to deliver remarks at the Tribal Nations Conference Wednesday afternoon at the Department of the Interior.