The Washington Redskins football team announced it will retire its name on Monday, following a review begun after corporate pressure.
Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, has previously insisted that the name would never change. A 2016 poll by the Washington Post found that nine in ten Native Americans were not offended by the name, although some consider the name to be a racial slur.
“Dan Synder and Coach [Ron] Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years,” the team said in a statement on Monday.
On July 2 of this year, Redskins sponsor FedEx publicly requested that the team change its name and threatened to remove company signage from the team’s stadium if the change was not carried out. The move would cost the team $45 million in revenue. That same day, Nike stopped marketing Redskins merchandise, and Pepsi and Bank of America also gave their support to a name change.
The Redskins released a statement on July 3 saying, “In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of (its) name.”
“I’m sure money plays a big part of this,” Eunice Davidson, of the Spirit Lake tribe of North Dakota, told the Post. “Money is always the bottom line.” Davidson helped found the Native American Guardian’s Association, an advocacy group that asserts the Redskins’ name honors Native Americans.
“Sports is a business,” commented Jimmy Lynn, a Georgetown University professor who teaches sports marketing. “When you have so many of your corporate partners and sponsors advocating for a change, you need to listen.”
The push to change the Redskins’ name also comes after a month and a half of demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers. The massive protests against police brutality after Floyd’s death have sometimes devolved into rioting and looting in major American cities.
Big corporations including both Pepsi and Coca-Cola have sent out messages of support for the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the wake of the demonstrations, including in advertisements.