Sponsors May Force Redskins to Change Name

Nike and FedEx may be able to do what Native American activists couldn't.

Owner Daniel Synder has refused to rebrand his NFL franchise, despite longstanding demands from American Indian groups who contend it is a racial slur. Money may change his mind.

WaPo (“FedEx calls on Redskins to change name following investors’ demands on sponsors“):

FedEx on Thursday became the first major corporate backer of the Washington Redskins to call on the team to change its name, the most significant development yet amid mounting financial and political pressure on team owner Daniel Snyder in the long-running controversy.

In a one-sentence statement issued Thursday afternoon, Memphis-based FedEx said, “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.”

Even without elaboration from the company, the statement signals a dramatic pivot by one of the Redskins’ more loyal, long-standing corporate backers — a Fortune 100 company that for more than two decades has tied its brand to that of the team.

The company’s request comes less than a week after a group of more than 85 investment firms and shareholders representing $620 billion in assets called on FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo to sever ties with the team unless Snyder changes its name.

For the uninitiated, the team plays its home games at “FedEx Field” (widely believed to be the worst venue in the League). And it’s not just FedEx joining in.

Pro Football Talk (“Nike removes all Washington gear from website“):

Nike has yet to issue the kind of statement that FedEx did regarding the name of the Washington team. The NFL’s official apparel provider has adopted a different approach.

At Nike.com, there’s no sign of any merchandise bearing the name or logo of the Washington franchise.

There’s more: The vertical drop-down menu on the left side of the site that comes up when searching for gear for any of the other NFL teams completely omits the Washington franchise.

Last year, Nike omitted the team name from its annual Salute to Service collection. The more recent action sends a much stronger message.

Still, Nike should eliminate any ambiguity and issue a statement on the issue, confirming that it has removed the gear, explaining the move, and joining FedEx in asking the team to change its name.

Now, Synder could just continue telling everyone to go to hell. FedEx is under contract to pay for naming rights and knew what the team’s name was when it entered the contract. Nike is likewise contractually obligated to manufacture Redskins merchandise and, for that matter, I’m sure Aidas, Under Armour, or some other company would be happy to take over that lucrative contract.

Still, Synder is fighting a losing battle.

For one thing, as noted earlier, FedEx field is a dump in an awful location. It takes hours to get in and out of the parking lots and there’s essentially nothing to do out there. Synder would love to join the trend of returning to a downtown stadium in the heart of DC. But the City Council has already made it clear that it’s not happening while the team has that nickname.

Further, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is under extreme pressure from the Black Lives Matter movement to reduce symbols of white supremacy. Changing the name—which goes way back to 1933—is really low hanging fruit.

UPDATE (July 4): Well, that didn’t take long: “Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians Working on Name Changes.”

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Race and Politics, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. It really does need to go.

    3
  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Money talks, everything else walks.

    4
  3. Joe says:

    Having watched the endless saga of Chief Illiniwek, dropped but not forgotten by the University of Illinois over a decade ago, I marvel at how the Washington NFL franchise can keep this going over the banishment of far less incendiary team names.

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    Given that the NFL is facing the same Covid 19 revenue crush that all other sports are facing, this is a bad time for Synder to be obstinate. He’ll fold like a cheap suit.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    The important thing is that the new name has to have two syllables, otherwise they’ll need a new fight song.

    2
  6. Moosebreath says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    A ranked list of 12 suggested names. I think Redhawks is best of the ones listed.

  7. CSK says:

    @Moosebreath:
    Redhawks is good.

  8. Teve says:

    @Moosebreath: That draft network website is so shitty that it crashed both my android and iOS devices. I saw Sentinels the second time. Couldn’t see the others.

  9. Jc says:

    Warriors. Snyder already has it trademarked. Then go back to throwback arrow emblem. It’s inevitable.

  10. Moosebreath says:

    @Teve:

    The site works fine for me on Firefox. The others, counting down, were Red Pandas, Hogs, Dragons, Skins, Renegades, Defenders, Rebels, Redhawks, Redtails, Pigskins and Federals.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    It’s fascinating watching all of these corporations trying to do the politically correct things, particularly because of the BLM movement…I notice some conservatives are grumbling about this…poor poor Rod Dreher…

  12. The Q says:

    The “Screaming Whities”?

  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @The Q: The “Tighty Whities?”

  14. James Joyner says:

    @Jc:

    Warriors. Snyder already has it trademarked. Then go back to throwback arrow emblem. It’s inevitable.

    That’s long seemed the obvious choice to me. I actually prefer that uniform and color scheme, regardless of the name. Still, I wonder if the arrow/spear iconography is still acceptable?

  15. @James Joyner:

    Still, I wonder if the arrow/spear iconography is still acceptable?

    This is a good question. It was his out for years, but at this point the team is probably better off going in a totally new direction.

  16. de stijl says:

    The basketball team already is The Wizards. (Squishy wizards)

    They need a tank / big hitter, a white mage and a black mage.

    Old school JRPG classes.

    Arguably, a black mage is also a wizard.

    Perhaps, a rogue / ranger.