The owner of the Washington Redskins said Friday that the NFL team had launched a review of its name, after years of resisting entreaties to do so. The decision was announced less than 24 hours after FedEx, a prominent sponsor that enjoys naming rights to the team’s playing field, made its own request for the Redskins to operate under a different title.
“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 the team’s name,” the team said in a statement. “This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.”
The team offered no formal timeline for completion of its process and made no guarantee of any action being taken. Still, 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.
“This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” Snyder said.
FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo are among the sponsors pushing the Redskins to take new action. Nike had on Thursday removed the team’s merchandise from its online store. Meanwhile, Fed Smith, FedEx’s CEO, is a minority stakeholder in the team.
“We have been in conversations with the NFL and Washington management for a few weeks about this issue. We believe it is time for a change,” PepsiCo said in a statement. “We are pleased to see the steps the team announced today, and we look forward to continued partnership.”
The NFL is “supportive of this important step,” said Roger Goodell, the league’s commissioner, in a separate statement.
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.