FedEx, which holds rights to the team’s stadium, formally requested the Redskins to ditch their name on Thursday, days after a group of 87 investment firms and shareholders, collectively worth some $620 billion, implored FedEx and two other major NFL sponsors – Nike and PepsiCo – to cut ties with the team unless it takes on a less “offensive” name.
In a short statement, reported by NBC Sports’ J.P. Finlay, FedEx said that they “have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.”
The request appears to be a thinly-veiled ultimatum, considering that FedEx President and CEO Frederick Smith is a minority owner of the team, in addition to the company being the most prominent sponsor of the Redskins.
Around the same time FedEx’s statement began making the rounds, Nike reportedly stopped selling Redskins merchandise on its website.
A word search for ‘redskins’ on Nike’s website returned no results as of Thursday evening, while apparel emblazoned with emblems of all other NFL teams remain on site.
Twitter was immediately swamped with suggestions as to how the team should rebrand itself.
Among the more popular suggestions has been the “Washington Redtails,” intended as a homage to the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black military aviators of the Army Air Corps who went by the same nickname.
Although the Redskins name has been a source of controversy since the 1960s, campaigns to force the team to change its title and logo have all fallen flat.
The team’s owner, Dan Snyder, has been adamant that the change won’t’ happen on his watch. In an open letter to fans in October 2013, he argued that the name celebrates Native American heritage, and should not be taken as an offense.
“On…the inaugural Redskins team, four players and our Head Coach were Native Americans. The name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor,” Snyder wrote, citing polls that indicated that the vast majority of Native Americans at the time did not see the name as problematic.
A 2016 Washington Post survey found out that out of 500 polled, nine out of 10 Native Americans did not oppose the moniker. A subsequent 2019 web-based study showed that 68 percent of 500 self-identified Native Americans were OK with the team’s name.
However, the most recent study, conducted this year by the liberal bastion UC Berkeley, argued that attitudes have shifted. The study claimed to have found that some 49 percent of about 1,000 self-identified Native Americans polled agreed that the name was indeed offensive. Thirty-eight percent said that they were not bothered by the issue, while the rest did not voice any opinion.
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