Investors Target Sponsors to Sever Ties With DC NFL Team

A march and rally on October 28, 2013, demanding the Washington D.C.-based NFL team change its name. (Flickr/CC Controversial Media)

There is a new push for multi-billion dollar corporations including Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to divorce themselves from sponsorship of the Washington Redskins, unless the team changes its racist name. Letters, signed by 87 investment firms and shareholders, worth a total $620 billion, were sent to each of the three Fortune 500 companies. 

Changing the name of a franchise since 1937 entails a substantial financial investment, in an unstable economy. So why not appeal to the money behind the operation, the sponsors? Will the threat of economic pain move the team’s hand and overturn the perpetuation of a racial slur?

At least 87 investment groups think so, and they say the time is now. Leading the charge are six: First Peoples Worldwide, Oneida Nation Trust Enrollment Committee, Trillium Asset Management, LLC Boston Common Asset Management, LLC Boston Trust Walden Mercy Investment Services and First Affirmative Financial Network. 

Many of these same investment firms also successfully put pressure on investors to divest from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), causing firms with ownership stakes in the pipeline to lose an estimated $7.5 billion, as cities and stakeholders pulled accounts and terminated relationships, Adweek reported. Now that could happen to the Redskins. 

As Carla Fredericks, director of First Peoples Worldwide, told Adweek of the decades-long fight for the NFL team to change its offensive name, the movement is finally gaining steam, thanks in part to a more democratized platform: social media. “This is a broader movement now that’s happening that Indigenous peoples are part of,” she said. “Indigenous peoples were sort of left out of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s in many respects, because our conditions were so dire on reservations and our ability to engage publicly was very limited because of that. With social media now, obviously everything is very different.”

Of the three corporate sponsors targeted, Nike has a track record of supporting Indigenous and minority causes through its Nike N7 arm, standing with Colin Kaepernick, and more. “However, Nike continues to provide uniforms and equipment to the Washington D.C. NFL football team which bears the logo and name,” states the letter to John Donahoe, President and CEO of NIKE. 

Meanwhile, another effort is underway to further stack the cards against team owner Daniel Snyder. Politicians say he can’t build a new Washington Redskins stadium on the federally owned RFK Stadium campus in the nation’s capital — unless he changes the team’s name, reported the Washington Post

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