Pressure From Sponsors Spurs NFL Team With Racist Name to Review its Brand

FedEx Field (Flickr CC/Rory Finneren)

Washington D.C.’s NFL football team has used a racist slur for its name since 1933. Today, the organization announced it will conduct a “thorough review” of its name and mascot. 

The move comes after title sponsor FedEx, which has naming rights to the stadium per a $205 million deal that runs until 2025, made a request Thursday that the team change its name.

FedEx, Nike, PepsiCo and Bank of America took a stand after mounting pressure from 87 investors that urged the multi-billion dollar corporations behind the Washington D.C. team to pull their sponsorship, unless owner Dan Synder rescind the culturally offensive label. 

It goes to show that when money is involved, people listen. Indigenous groups and activists have fought for decades for the team to retire the use of the racist stereotype. 

“In light of 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,” a statement from the NFL team read. “This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.” 

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell noted in a statement that the league is “supportive of this important step.” 

But as Deadspin points out, the team’s statement was released on letterhead that features the infamous logo at the top and contains at least 10 uses of the racist slur. 

FedEx was the first to lead the charge for the NFL team to reevaluate its name. The sponsor pays the  team $7.6 million annually to display its name on the Landover, Maryland-based stadium. 

Nike stepped up quickly as well, removing Redskins-branded gear from its online store Thursday and releasing a statement on Friday: “We have been talking to the NFL and sharing our concerns regarding the name of the Washington team. We are pleased to see the team taking a first step towards change.” 

PepsiCo, a sponsor since 2017, echoed fellow sponsors: “We believe it is time for a change.” 

Meanwhile, Bank of America lauded that the bank has “encouraged the team to change the name” and praised its “thorough review” underway. 

A Long Time Coming (87 Years) 

The National Congress of American Indians announced Friday that the organization welcomes the review, calling it an important breakthrough for Indian Country.

As NCAI President Fawn Sharp put it, “This moment has been 87 years in the making, and we have reached this moment thanks to decades of tireless efforts by Tribal leaders, advocates, citizens, and partners to educate America about the origins and meaning of the R-word. NCAI looks forward to immediately commencing discussions with the league and team about how they will change the team’s name and mascot, and a prompt timetable for doing so. Indian Country deserves nothing less. The time to change is now.” 

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