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The Washington Redskins name has been a heated debate for several years. Despite public outcry about the team’s nickname being offensive to Native Americans, Redskins owner Dan Snyder hasn’t budged. That may change now as major brands and government officials are amping up pressure on the organization to change their name.
On Wednesday, investment firms and shareholders worth a combined $620 billion sent letters to Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo requesting that they terminate their business relationships with the Washington Redskins unless the team agrees to change its name. The next day, FedEx who is the title sponsor of the Redskins home stadium, asked the team to change their name.
“We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name,” a FedEx spokesperson said.
This is a huge statement because when big money is at stake, it usually forces the hand of the benefiting party. Furthermore, the company’s chairman Frederick Smith holds a minority stake in the NFL team’s ownership group. In 1998, FedEx paid $205 million to the Redskins for the naming rights to the stadium, a deal that runs through 2025.
The pressure kept mounting as Nike was next in line to take action. The athletic giant removed all Redskins gear from their site. Additionally, the team isn’t listed among the other 31 NFL teams as an option to filter the site’s NFL products.
FedEx and Nike are not the only one’s calling on the team to make a move. In the Redskins quest for a new home, it’s well-known that the organization is interested in the old RFK Stadium site. However, unless the team is willing to change its name, the federally owned land is not an option.
In an interview with the Washington Post, D.C.’s nonvoting delegate to the House of Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) stated “I call on Dan Snyder once again to face that reality, since he does still desperately want to be in the nation’s capital,” he continued “He has got a problem he can’t get around — and he particularly can’t get around it today, after the George Floyd killing.”
“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.
This isn’t the first time the Redskins name controversy has come up. However, there has never been such strong voices amplifying the issue. Money talks and it might be the message that gets Dan Snyder’s attention.