The owners of Washington D.C.’s lucrative NFL franchise said they would begin a process to rename the team in the wake of recent criticism from advertisers and after years of downplaying the controversy.
Officials of the team, long known as the Redskins, said Monday they “will be retiring the Redskins name and logo” following a review of possible new options. Executives expressed a desire 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’s first nod to its sponsors in its statement is indicative of the pressure they brought to bear in recent days. FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo are among the team partners who pushed it for new action. Nike had removed the team’s merchandise from its online store. Meanwhile, Fed Smith, FedEx’s CEO, is a minority stakeholder in the team.
The move is significant because Redskins owner Dan Snyder has for years declined to consider changing the name of the Washington franchise, even though references to Native Americans of the sort the team uses have come under increasing scrutiny.
Sports teams have kept references to Native Americans despite outcry in past decades. Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians continue with their names intact, though in past years the Indians ceased the use of a mascot, Chief Wahoo, and the Braves have come under scrutiny for its fans’ use of a “tomahawk chop” to rally behind the team. The NFL also has the Kansas City Chiefs. Team owners, league officials and fans have in the past cited the names association with competition as a rationale for keeping them.