The Washington Redskins began a “thorough review” of the football team’s name on Friday. The move is a big step toward scrapping what some call a “dictionary-defined racial slur.”
Since buying the team in 1999, team owner Dan Snyder has shown no willingness to change the name. But the country’s recent conversation about race has renewed outside opposition to the name.
Big-money sponsors have also begun to speak up. With additional support from the National Football League, the uproar may finally lead to a new name for the formerly great franchise.
“In the last few weeks, we have had ongoing discussions with Dan, and we are supportive of this important step,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says.
“This [review] 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,” Snyder says.
Native American groups have tried for decades to force a change. A study this year revealed 67% of Natives surveyed agreed or strongly agreed the name was offensive.
Asked last month about the name, a spokesperson said the team had no comment. But this week marked a possible change on the issue. Investors wrote to FedEx, PepsiCo, and other sponsors hoping they would demand change.
FedEx, whose CEO is also a minority owner of the Washington franchise, was the first to act publicly. The title sponsor of the team’s Maryland stadium, FedEx said Thursday, “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that [it] change the team name.” FedEx paid $205 million for naming rights to the stadium.
On Thursday night, Nike appeared to remove all Redskins gear from its online store. Nike says it shared its concerns with the NFL over the name and is “pleased to see the team taking a first step towards change.”
Both PepsiCo and Bank of America say they want a name change and welcome the review.
Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter is leader of the “Change the Mascot” campaign. “Dan Snyder can stand on the right side of history and create a new, positive legacy for his team,” he says, “or instead continue embracing a bigoted slur that denigrates Native Americans and people of color.”
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up. — Ephesians 4:29
(Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera holds a helmet during a news conference at the team’s NFL football training facility in Virginia. AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)