The Washington Redskins said Friday the team will “undergo a thorough review” of its name, which is considered a derogatory term by Native Americans.
This comes on the heels of Thursday’s news that FedEx, the sponsor of the team’s stadium in Prince George’s County since the late 1990s, asked the team to consider changing the name.
Washington’s NFL team has found itself under intense criticism in recent weeks in the wake of the protests prompted by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the outcry over systemic racism in the United States.
Other sponsors, including Nike and Pepsi, have been criticized for their affiliation with Washington’s NFL team.
The team’s owner, Daniel Snyder has refused, for years, to change the team’s name. But on Friday, he said the review “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.”
The team’s new head coach, Ron Rivera, said the franchise name “is of personal importance to me.” Just days ago, in an interview with a Chicago radio station, Rivera, a former Bears player, said “it is a discussion for another time.”
It appears that time has arrived, thanks to pressure from organizations that have financial ties to the team.
Moments after the team’s statement, a PepsiCo spokesperson released a comment to news organizations, saying the company has “been in conversations with the NFL and Washington management for a few weeks about this issue. We believe it is time for a change. We are pleased to see the steps the team announced today, and we look forward to continued partnership.”
On Thursday, FedEx, which owns the naming rights to the stadium in Landover for another five seasons, said it “communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.” FedEx’s sponsorship is worth over $200 million.
Also Thursday, reports arose that Nike had removed all Redskins merchandise from its online store. The Washington team’s name is missing below the Tennessee Titans.
The Redskins’ statement concluded: “We believe this review can and will be conducted with the best interest of all in mind.”
Washington has used the name since 1933.
The National Congress of American Indians lauded the pressure from FedEx in a statement posted to its website on Thursday, calling it a “wake-up call” for those who do business with the NFL.
“In this historic moment and global movement for racial justice, they can no longer sit idly by as the league’s Washington franchise clings to a dictionary-defined racial slur as its mascot. The R-word is destined for the dustbin of history – it’s not a question of if, but when, and that time is now,” NCAI President Fawn Sharp said.
She called the removal of “racist and harmful words, symbols, and imagery like the Washington team’s R-word mascot is a necessary and non-negotiable first step in taking that path.”
The NCAI has long opposed “Indian” sports mascots and has effected significant change in recent years, however the Redskins have remained firm, until now, about sticking with the team’s name. The team’s founding owner, George Preston Marshall, also was resolute against integrating the NFL.
The team itself was the last team in the league to integrate, when eventual Hall-of-Famer Bobby Mitchell joined in 1962. Mitchell died earlier in 2020 and the team announced then that his No. 49 would be retired. Mitchell’s number is only the second the team has ever retired.
Events DC, the organization that manages RFK Stadium and its campus, along with the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, recently removed the statue of Marshall from the grounds of the stadium complex.
As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this article from Dan Friedel. Click here for the WTOP News website.