Interstellar star Matthew McConaughey is a lifelong Washington Redskins fan and he’d like you to know that he’s not too offended that the team’s name is apparently a racial slur — and that you shouldn’t be either.
McConaughey, who has seen his career catapult since his starring turn in HBO’s hit drama True Detective, sat down with GQ for an interview ahead of the release of Interstellar, a sci-fi epic that will see McConaughey in the lead role trying to save humanity. Eventually, the interview turned to McConaughey’s youth, and the star revealed that he has been a Redskins fan since he was four years old.
“[You] were a Redskins fan growing up in Texas?” the interviewer asked. “What the hell was that about?”
“Two things. First: Four years old, watching Westerns, I always rooted for the Indians,” McConaughey replied. “Second, my favorite food was hamburgers. The Redskins had a linebacker named Chris Hanburger.”
Asked what he thought about Redskins changing the team name — a name many say is a racial slur against Native Americans — McConaughey appealed to history and tradition.
“Man, it’s twofold. What interests me is how quickly it got pushed into the social consciousness,” McConaughey explained. “We were all fine with it since the 1930s, and all of a sudden we go, ‘No, gotta change it’?”
McConaughey continued, explaining that he knows that “a lot of Native Americans” don’t have any problem with the name, which some accounts say derives from a bounty that early American colonies put on Native American scalps.
McConaughey went on to tie the debate over the Redskins’ name and logo to the struggle over gun rights in America.
“It’s like my feeling about gun control,” McConaughey said. “‘I get it. You have the right to have guns. But look, let’s forget that right. Let’s forget the pleasure you get safely on your range, because it’s in the wrong hands in other places.'”
Asked if he would be offended if the Redskins were to change their name and logo, McConaughey said he wouldn’t.
“It’s not going to hurt me,” he explained. “I love the emblem. I dig it. It gives me a little fire and some oomph. But now that its’ in the court of public opinion, it’s going to change. I wish it wouldn’t, but it will.”
Contrary to McConaughey’s beliefs, the controversy over the Redskins’ name and logo is not an “all of a sudden” sort of thing. The Redskins name has been an issue at least since 1992, when a group of Native Americans filed Harjo et al v. Pro Football, asking for the Redskins trademarks to be canceled. At the time, the group argued that the Redskins name constituted a “disparaging term.”
In June of this year, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board found in favor of a group of Native Americans and canceled the Redskins’ trademarks. The Board noted in its finding that “by a preponderance of the evidence, the petitioners established that the term ‘Redskins’ was disparaging of Native Americans.”
In May of this year, fully 50 United States Senators signed a letter to the NFL calling for the league to take a stance against “racism and bigotry in professional sports.”
Team owner Dan Snyder has remained adamant that the Redskins name will remain. Snyder says that the name is a show of respect, and has said in no uncertain terms that the Redskins will stay the Redskins.
“We will never change the name of the team,” Snyder has said. “As a lifelong Redskins fan… I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what that means.”