Sponsors at the forefront as NFL's Redskins commit to name change
The Washington Redskins, of American football’s National Football League, have today announced they will be changing their controversial team nickname, with pressure from sponsors having been a key factor in the decision.
In the current political and social climate, there had been increasing calls for the Redskins name to be dropped on the grounds it was a derogatory and racist term. A new team name and logo will be chosen in due course.
Other US sports franchises with names linked to Native American people are also coming under similar pressure to act.
The decision by the Redskins to drop the name they have played under for 87 years comes just 10 days after the team said it would conduct a review, with sponsors leading the way in calling for a change, and set to be involved in the decision on a replacement.
The owners had previously ruled out a change but FedEx, which holds the naming rights to the team’s Maryland-based stadium FedEx Field in a deal that started in 1999 and is worth $205 million over 27 years, and PepsiCo were among the brands involved in the campaign.
Meanwhile, online retail giant Amazon, plus US retailers Target, Walmart and Nike said they would stop selling the team’s merchandise. Nike manufactures the kit of all 32 NFL teams.
In a statement today, the Redskins said: “On July 3rd, we announced the commencement of a thorough review of the team’s name. That review has begun in earnest. As part of the process, we want to keep our sponsors, fans and community appraised of our thinking as we go forward.
“Today, we are announcing we will retire the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review.
“[Owner] Dan Snyder 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 franchise added the new name, when chosen, would “take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organisation, sponsors, the NFL and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field.”
The Redskins have been NFL champions on five occasions, with their most recent Super Bowl win being in 1991.
Meanwhile, Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves have said they will not be changing their nickname but will consider the future use of their controversial chant the ‘Tomahawk Chop’.
The chant began in the early 1990s with fans mimicking the use of a tomahawk with one arm while chanting an imitation Native American war cry.
In an email to fans, the Braves said: “We have had an active and supportive relationship with the Native American community for many years. Through our conversations, changing the name of the Braves is not under consideration or deemed necessary.
“As it relates to the fan experience, including the chop, it is one of the many issues that we are working through with the advisory group. The chop was popularised by our fans when [MLB and NFL player] Deion Sanders joined our team and it continues to inspire our players on the field. With that in mind, we are continuing to listen to the Native American community, as well as our fans, players, and alumni to ensure we are making an informed decision on this part of our fan experience.”
Fellow MLB team the Cleveland Indians are already reviewing their team name, having stated they are “committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward."
However, the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks have said they intend to retain their nickname as it honours a Native American leader who has been an inspiration.
In a statement, the team said: “The Chicago Blackhawks name and logo symbolises an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac and Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public.”