Washington Redskins to have a review of team nickname
Washington Redskins players at practice - Photo by Bill Dickinson | Flickr

The Washington Redskins released a statement where they announced they will be conducting a formal investigation of their team name Friday morning.

"In light of the recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team's name," the team said.

Team owner Dan Snyder said in the statement, "This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field."

This comes after FedEx, which is their stadium's sponsor, asked the team to change their nickname on Thursday, according to a statement that was obtained by ESPN

"We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name," FedEx said in the statement. A letter was sent to FedEx, Nike, and PepsiCo that was signed by 87 investors and shareholders asking those companies to end their relationship with the team unless they change their name. 

FedEx has naming rights to the team's stadium, which they paid $205 million for in a 1998 deal that doesn't end until 2025. Frederick Smith, chairman, CEO, and president of FedEx also has a minority ownership stake with the team. 

Native American tribe The Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin requested FedEx shareholders in Memphis to reconsider the naming rights agreement with the Redskins back in 2014 according to the Memphis Business Journal. Shareholders voted to stick with company officials and continue their business relationship.

Nike is also applying pressure for Washington to change their name, as they removed Redskins merchandise from their online store on Thursday. When users search for merchandise pertaining to the Redskins, they are met with a "We could not find anything for 'Washington Redskins', " message as a result. Nike's subtle but impactful response was surely a factor in Synder and the team initiating the review.

Fans in the stands at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland | Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP
Fans in the stands at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland | Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

 

Snyder has been unwilling to change the name of the team, despite it being offensive to Native Americans. In an interview with USA Today in 2013, he responded to a question about changing the team name saying, "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps." The Redskins team name has been used since 1933.

In a recent study done by UC Berkely in Feb. 2020, over half of the participants who were Native American or deeply involved in Native American tribal culture and practices, found the Washington football team's nickname and native mascots to be offensive. This is contrary to a couple of polls done in the Washington Post in 2016 and 2019, where they said the overwhelming majority of Native Americans polled didn't find the Redskins name offensive. Native American leaders have protested and requested the football team's name to be changed, even going to court but to no avail. 

The revitalized pressure for the Redskins to change their name is due to the social climate following the death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody in May. The social awakening and unrest that has followed his death have caused many businesses to re-adjust or change their products, marketing schemes, ideals in an effort to show respect and solidarity with the African American community. The NFL released a video in June where Roger Goodell condemned racism and supported the Black Lives Matter movement. That video was in response to a player-led video where some of the NFL's biggest stars challenged the league to listen, help, and stand with the Black community and its players.

This new push for the Washington Redskins to change their names now has some financial pressure and potential consequences. Snyder has never had money on the line in past efforts to change his team's name. It seems like the pressure from FedEx and Nike has worked, as  Synder and the team are looking into potentially changing their team name. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the name change is likely to happen.

 

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