If you search for “Redskins” on Nike.com, you will find that all official team gear has been removed from the store. If you go on Twitter or read any national news outlet, you will see that FedEx released a statement indicating that it had asked “the team in Washington” to change its name.
According to a report from AdWeek, Nike and FedEx were among a group of corporations (PepsiCo was also included) whose investors wrote to them requesting that they end their relationships with Washington unless the team changes its name. The letters to Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo were from 87 investment firms and shareholders worth a collective $620 billion. FedEx, for what it’s worth, is the named sponsor of the field where Washington plays its games, and its CEO, Frederick Smith, is a part owner of the team.
As if that weren’t enough for one day, Washington is now under more political pressure than ever to change its name. Having been a point of contention for a long time now with groups who think the term “redskin” is an offensive racial slur toward the Native American population, the topic has reached its boiling point in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department — the officers involved having since been fired and charged with second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Subsequent protests have fueled changes that include the city removing the statue of George Preston Marshall, the founder of the organization and a staunch opponent of desegregation, from outside of RFK Stadium; in a move praised by Marshall’s own granddaughter, Jordan Wright.
“I was glad to see it come down,” said Wright, via the Washington Post. “It’s past time to see it go.”
Current team owner Dan Snyder went a step further in agreeing to remove Marshall’s name from all official team material and from its Ring of Honor, but Snyder has thus far stood firm on his position of not changing the team’s name. He may not have a choice any longer, however. That is, if he wants to relocate the team to the land where RFK Stadium currently sits.
That sizable parcel of real estate is owned by the federal government, 190 acres in all, and several elected officials have now served up an ultimatum that requires Snyder either change the team’s name or find a new landing spot for relocation. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District of Columbia’s nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives, is one voice leading the charge.
“I call on Dan Snyder once again to face that reality, since he does still desperately want to be in the nation’s capital,” Norton said, via the Washington Post. “He has got a problem he can’t get around, and he particularly can’t get around it today, after the George Floyd killing.”
Norton isn’t the only official drawing a hard line in front of Snyder.
“There is no viable path, locally or federally, for the Washington football team to return to Washington, D.C., without first changing the team name,” D.C. Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio said.
Snyder’s team is currently headquartered in Ashburn, Virginia, and holds training camp in Richmond, while FedEx Field itself sits in Landover, Maryland — east of Washington. With the RFK campus up for sale, Snyder is eyeing a move there, in part because of the rapidly aging FedEx Field (the team’s home since 1997), and in part because he joins in the sentiment of those who’d like to see the team return to Washington; as opposed to operating just outside of it.
“[Washington] is a special place, and she’s right that it’s the only sports team that’s not in the city,” Snyder said. “It’s special to me. I have great memories there.”
It’s a plan seemingly all are on board with, but not without a required name change, which is something the federal government can demand for land they own. If Snyder wants to be allowed to purchase it, he’ll have to revisit his dug-in stance on the “Redskins” name.
“I think it’s past time for the team to deal with what offends so many people,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said. “And this is a great franchise with a great history that’s beloved in Washington. And it deserves a name that reflects the affection that we’ve built for the team.”
A much more scathing version of the message came by way of U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.).
“The time [for the name] has ended,” Grijalva said. “There is no way to justify it. You either step into this century or you don’t. It’s up to the owner of the team to do that.”