I wrote last week that the walls were closing in on Dan Snyder, the majority owner of the professional football team associated with the city of Washington DC that has a racist name and logo. Snyder is an awful person who had said in 2013 that he would never change the name despite decades of criticism. He seemed to delight in rejecting the calls for changes, even calling the team’s name a ‘badge of honor’, as if he thought that it made him look tough.
But times are different and today comes news that the team is ‘reviewing’ its racist team name after all, a sure sign that a change is coming.
The Washington Redskins American football team will review its name after demands from major sponsors.
Its headline sponsor, Fedex, joined a fresh wave of calls to scrap a team moniker long-criticised as racist.
The Washington DC-based team has faced years of pressure over a name seen as offensive to Native Americans. The latest calls come amid a fresh focus on racism sparked by worldwide protests.
FedEx made the request at the behest of its own investors.
Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, said: “This 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 (NFL) and the local community.”
At the turn of the millennium, FedEx paid $205m (£165m) for the naming rights to the Redskins’ 82,000-seat stadium in Maryland. The deal expires in 2025.
But that is not the delivery giant’s only tie to the team. The boss and founder of FedEx, Frederick Smith also owns a minority stake in the Redskins.
Last week, 87 investment firms and shareholders wrote to FedEx, along with fellow Redskins’ sponsors Nike and PepsiCo, calling on the firms to sever ties with the Redskins, according to trade publication AdWeek.
“‘Redskins’ remains a dehumanising word, characterizing people by skin colour and a racial slur with hateful connotations,” the letter written to PepsiCo said.
As of Thursday, Nike’s website did not display any Redskins merchandise. The Washington-based team was the only one of the 32 NFL teams no longer listed in the site’s index.
Snyder might have been willing to continue with the racist name even after all the protests against systemic racism, but the extra pressure from sponsors seems to have done the trick. Money tends to be a great persuader.
I notice that Snyder himself has not said anything publicly. So much for his tough guy image.