What do the Redskins and gun control have in common? Ask Matthew McConaughey

Actor Matthew McConaughey doesn't want the name of the Washington Redskins to change, he told GQ Magazine. But he says that it probably will. 

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Actor and honoree Matthew McConaughey at the 28th American Cinematheque Award ceremony in Beverly Hills, Calif.Oct. 21, 2014.

Matthew McConaughey became the latest person to wade into the Washington Redskins name debate in an interview with GQ in which he said he wished the name wouldn't change and compared the name controversy to the gun control debate.

When asked how he feels about calls to change the team's name, Mr. McConaughey said, "What interests me is how quickly it got pushed into the social consciousness. We were all fine with it since the 1930s, and all of a sudden we go, “No, gotta change it”? It seems like when the first levee breaks, everybody gets on board."

He continued, "I know a lot of Native Americans don’t have a problem with it, but they’re not going to say, 'No, we really want the name.' That’s not how they’re going to use their pulpit. It’s like my feeling about gun control: '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.'"

Fans were surprised by McConaughey's comments for a number of reasons. First, his comments were perceived by some as surprisingly unguarded and politically incorrect, at least by Hollywood standards. And a number of observers were mystified by the connection McConaughey made between the name debate and the gun debate.

"Confused?" asked Time's Eliana Dockterman. "Same here."

Perhaps most confusing to those not already familiar with McConaughey's athletic loyalties is why a hard-boiled East Texan was rooting for the Redskins and not the Cowboys.

"Two things," McConaughy, who said he's been a Redskins fan for as long as he can remember, explained to GQ. "First: 4 years old, watching Westerns, I always rooted for the Indians. Second, my favorite food was hamburgers. The Redskins had a linebacker named Chris Hanburger. When you’re 4 years old, that’s all it takes."

That sort of intense team loyalty – and strong feelings over its name – is what's fueling the debate over Washington's National Football League team name.

Folks from all walks of life, including celebrities, government officials, Native Americans, athletes, and even the President, have weighed in on the debate.

Just last month, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said the name was "offensive and derogatory." One year ago, even President Obama weighed in, saying he would "think about changing" the team name if he were the owner. Stock car racer and diehard Redskins fan Dale Earnhardt Jr. has said he backs the current name, as does Redskins quarterback Robert Griffins III, who tweeted this strong sentiment about the name debate last year.

Earlier this month, Navajo Nation president Ben Shelly was an honored guest of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, sitting next to him during an NFL game between the Redskins and Arizona Cardinals, as Monitor reporter Anne Marie Steele reported. The photo of the Native American leader, wearing a Redskins cap and sitting next to the Redskins owner, incited intense reaction, and was both hailed as a "rebuttal to those who say the team’s name is racist," by some, and criticized as "heinously ham-handed PR," by others.

Where do Americans stand on the name change debate?

According to a 2014 ABC News/Washington Post poll, only 14 percent of Americans feel the Redskins name should be changed.

McConaughey is no exception.

Speaking about a potential logo change, he told GQ, "It’s not going to hurt me. It’s just… I love the emblem. I dig it. It gives me a little fire and some oomph. But now that it’s in the court of public opinion, it’s going to change. I wish it wouldn’t, but it will."

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