Washington Redskins move toward changing controversial team name

The Washington Redskins moved Friday toward what team owner Daniel Snyder once vowed was unthinkable: changing its controversial name during a bow to pressure from its largest corporate sponsors and therefore the fierce winds of societal reckoning sweeping the country.

Washington Redskins move toward changing controversial team name

After years of resistance, the team said it had been launching a radical review of the name. It didn't share any details of the method , but two people conversant in discussions between Snyder, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and league officials that led to Friday’s announcement said the review is predicted to end in a replacement team nickname and mascot.

“You know where this leads,” one among the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They’re performing on that process [of changing the name]. it'll end with a replacement name. Dan has been taking note of different people over the last number of weeks.”

Asked whether a change was certain, the person said, “I don’t want to mention one hundred pc . It’s very likely headed therein direction.”

A person with knowledge of things said: “It’s not a matter of if the name changes but when.”

One of the people conversant in discussions between the team and league said the change “potentially” could happen before the 2020 season, currently scheduled to start Sept. 10, and therefore the other said “it’s trending that way.”

The team said the review “formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.” It didn't announce a timeline for the review.

“This process allows the team to require under consideration not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National league and therefore the area people it's proud to represent on and off the sector ,” Snyder said within the statement.
Goodell expressed the league’s support for the team’s review. “In the previous couple of weeks we've had ongoing discussions with Dan and that we are supportive of this important step,” Goodell said during a statement released by the league.

League officials have said in recent days that any change would be a club decision, not one originating from the league office. But consistent with one person conversant in the league’s inner workings, owners of other NFL teams had become increasingly concerned about Snyder’s operation of the Redskins and his longstanding refusal to reconsider the name.

“We need to help him do what’s best for himself and best for the league,” that person said. “I hope this is often a warning call because that franchise is so important.”

With a review now underway, Snyder has little choice but to follow through with a reputation change, consistent with this individual, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Otherwise, “I think he’s getting to have a serious exodus of all his sponsors,” he said.
The Redskins’ announcement and sudden about-face on a problem that has long roiled the franchise comes on the heels of a broader nationwide discussion on race and a reckoning with the country’s history. Since George Floyd was killed while in police custody in May, monuments have fallen, flags are barred and protests calling for sweeping change, largely focused on racial equity and police brutality, have taken place in cities from coast to coast.

While the Redskins’ statement made no specific mention of a reputation change, the review are going to be seen leaguewide as a primary step toward a move the organization — and Snyder, specifically — has long resisted. Snyder, who grew up a lover of the franchise before purchasing the team in 1999, has maintained the team name and mascot are a source of pride, honoring the heritage of Native Americans. He famously drew a line within the sand during a 2013 interview, saying, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that straightforward . NEVER — you'll use caps.”

But there has been growing momentum for a change in recent weeks, and on Thursday FedEx, a longtime sponsor and naming-rights holder of the team’s home stadium, issued a 1 sentence statement calling for a change. Fred Smith, the FedEx chief executive, may be a minority owner of the Redskins.

“We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they modify the team name,” the Memphis-based company said.

Investors and shareholders are applying pressure on the team’s corporate sponsors, and lots of welcomed the Redskins’ announcement.

“We are in conversations with the NFL and Washington management for a couple of weeks about this issue,” Jon Banner, PepsiCo’s executive vice chairman for global communications, said during a statement. “We believe it's time for a change. We are pleased to ascertain the steps the team announced today, and that we anticipate to continued partnership.”

Larry Di Rita, Bank of America’s president for the Washington market, said: “As a partner and sponsor, we've encouraged the team to vary the name and that we welcome this announcement.”

As major corporate backers of the team, FedEx and PepsiCo tied their brands thereto of the Redskins for years. In their respective statements acknowledging that they support a name-change, neither company used the word “Redskins."

While Nike, another major sponsor, has yet to form a public statement, the corporate removed Redskins’ merchandise from its online store Thursday.

Carla Fredericks, among the leaders of the company investors that pressed the businesses to chop ties with the team if it didn’t change its name, on Friday involved the Redskins’ review process to be expedient and be led by native voices.

“We don’t think that an extended review process is important for a dictionary-defined racial slur,” said Fredericks, director of First Peoples Worldwide and director of the University of Colorado Law School’s American Indian Law Clinic. “And whatever review process is undertaken should be undertaken with native leadership at the forefront.”

The Redskins have defended the name within the face of legal challenges, and for years the difficulty has been a contentious one, with numerous members of Congress and even President Barack Obama calling for a change. The name more recently has threatened to sink any hopes of the team building a replacement stadium in Washington, as both local and federal leaders have said a return to the District would be contingent a replacement name

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), who has advocated for the name change for the past decade, hailed Friday’s development as a tipping point during a long-running movement but said there’s no need for any kind of review before instituting a change.

“It’s a racial slur that one among the items that i feel our country is reckoning with right now: Things that we swept under the rug and said were acceptable or said, ‘We’ll get around to fixing that later,’” McCollum said during a interview . “The American people don’t want to attend any more . they need a transparent message that equality and justice are what we’re striving for as a nation."

Several grass roots organizations have spent years pressuring Snyder, protesting at games and organizing through social media. Ray Halbritter, a Oneida Indian Nation representative and a pacesetter of the Change the Mascot campaign, said “any real review will cause the inevitable conclusion that the deeply offensive and racist name of Washington’s NFL team must go now.”

“Government bodies, schools, places of employment, sports and civic leaders, civil rights and non secular organizations and social scientists have already reviewed the difficulty extensively and determined conclusively that the mascot is offensive, and its use creates hostility and harm,” he said.

While the team had been adamant the name wouldn't change, the organization has found itself wrestling in recent weeks with other controversial aspects of its past. In June, the team removed the name of George Preston Marshall, its founding owner and therefore the last NFL owner to integrate his team’s roster, from the franchise’s Ring of Honor. the choice came only one day after a monument to Marshall was defaced and later dismantled and faraway from outside RFK Stadium, the franchise’s longtime home stadium.

Les Carpenter contributed to the present report.

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