Washington Redskins drop ‘racist’ name after FedEx threat

The Washington NFL franchise announced Monday that it will drop the ‘Redskins’ name and logo immediately, bowing to decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans.

A new name must still be selected for one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it remains unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the US.

The move came less than two weeks after owner Dan Snyder, a boyhood fan of the team who once declared he would never get rid of the name, launched a ‘thorough review’ amid pressure from sponsors. FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and Bank of America all lined up against the name, which was given to the franchise in 1933 when the team was still based in Boston.

In this December 15, 2019, file photo, Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins warms up before an NFL football game in Landover, Maryland. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen

In this December 15, 2019, file photo, Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins warms up before an NFL football game in Landover, Maryland. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen

In this December 15, 2019, file photo, Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins warms up before an NFL football game in Landover, Maryland. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen

Rodney Johnson of Chesapeake, Virginia sits in his truck outside FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland as his favorite NFL team announced it was dropping 'Redskins' from its name

Rodney Johnson of Chesapeake, Virginia sits in his truck outside FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland as his favorite NFL team announced it was dropping 'Redskins' from its name

Rodney Johnson of Chesapeake, Virginia sits in his truck outside FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland as his favorite NFL team announced it was dropping ‘Redskins’ from its name

Hand painted concrete barriers stand around FedEx Field, home of the former Redskins

Hand painted concrete barriers stand around FedEx Field, home of the former Redskins

Hand painted concrete barriers stand around FedEx Field, home of the former Redskins 

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder previously said he wouldn't be open to a name change

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder previously said he wouldn't be open to a name change

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder previously said he wouldn’t be open to a name change

An employee drags a sign out in front of the Hall of Fame Store at FedEx Field

An employee drags a sign out in front of the Hall of Fame Store at FedEx Field

An employee drags a sign out in front of the Hall of Fame Store at FedEx Field

In its statement, the team said it is ‘retiring’ the name and logo and that Snyder and coach Ron Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design.

‘Today, we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review,’ the team said in a statement.

‘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.’ 

Native American advocates and experts have long criticized the name they call a ‘dictionary-defined racial slur.’ Over a dozen Native leaders and organizations wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week demanding an immediate end to Washington’s use of the name. Goodell, who has fielded questions on the topic for years, said he supported the review.

A Washington Redskins fan prepares for the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 12, 2004 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland

A Washington Redskins fan prepares for the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 12, 2004 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland

A Washington Redskins fan prepares for the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 12, 2004 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland

Protests against the name predate Snyder buying the team in 1999, and, until now, he had shown no willingness to consider a change. 

Strong words from sponsors – including a company run by a minority stakeholder of the team – changed the equation.

FedEx earlier this month became the first sponsor to announce it had asked the organization to change the name, particularly important because CEO Frederick Smith owns part of the team. 

FedEx also paid $205 million for the long-term naming rights to the team’s stadium in Landover, Maryland.

The lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027, and dropping the name keeps open various possibilities in Maryland, Virginia and Washington for the team’s new stadium and headquarters. 

District of Columbia mayor Muriel Bowser has said the name was an ‘obstacle’ to Snyder building on the old RFK Stadium site, which is believed to be his preference.

Longtime Washington Redskins fan Rodney Johnson points to a magnet reading 'keep the name' displayed on his Redskins-themed pickup truck

Longtime Washington Redskins fan Rodney Johnson points to a magnet reading 'keep the name' displayed on his Redskins-themed pickup truck

Longtime Washington Redskins fan Rodney Johnson points to a magnet reading ‘keep the name’ displayed on his Redskins-themed pickup truck

Longtime Washington Redskins fan Carol Booth from Maryland takes a selfie in front of a Washington Redskins logo outside the Hall of Fame Store at FedEx Field

Longtime Washington Redskins fan Carol Booth from Maryland takes a selfie in front of a Washington Redskins logo outside the Hall of Fame Store at FedEx Field

Longtime Washington Redskins fan Carol Booth from Maryland takes a selfie in front of a Washington Redskins logo outside the Hall of Fame Store at FedEx Field

A man, Philip Martin McCaulay has registered trademarks for eight possible new team names

A man, Philip Martin McCaulay has registered trademarks for eight possible new team names

A man, Philip Martin McCaulay has registered trademarks for eight possible new team names

One common suggestion among fans on social media has been the Redwolves or Red Wolves

One common suggestion among fans on social media has been the Redwolves or Red Wolves

One common suggestion among fans on social media has been the Redwolves or Red Wolves

The team has hinted it would like to honor the US military with the name change in some way

The team has hinted it would like to honor the US military with the name change in some way

The team has hinted it would like to honor the US military with the name change in some way

Fans have floated several options, including the Red Wolves and the RedTails, the latter of which refers to the Tuskegee Airmen who flew for the US Air Force in World War II. 

Minneapolis, Minnesota, Rally against racism, Protesting the Washington Redskins' name

Minneapolis, Minnesota, Rally against racism, Protesting the Washington Redskins' name

Minneapolis, Minnesota, Rally against racism, Protesting the Washington Redskins’ name

A man named Philip Martin McCaulay has already registered trademarks for the RedTails, Red Wolves, and several other possibilities, which could explain why Snyder’s team was not yet ready to announce a new team name on Monday. McCaulay told the Daily Mail the team has not been in contact with him as of Monday afternoon. 

In an statement, the Navajo Nation suggested changing the name to ‘Code Talkers,’ which is another reference to World War II. 

‘The NFL Washington-based team officially announced the retirement of the racist and disparaging “Redskins” team name and logo,’ read the statement.

‘For generations, this team name and logo has misrepresented the true history and events that define the term “redskins.”

‘Renaming the team “Code Talkers” to honor the Navajo Code Talkers, and other tribal nations who used their sacred language to help win World War II would set the team on a path to restoring its reputation and correcting the historical misrepresentation of Indigenous peoples.’  

In this October 24, 2019, file photo, Native American leaders protest against the Redskins team name outside US Bank Stadium before an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis

In this October 24, 2019, file photo, Native American leaders protest against the Redskins team name outside US Bank Stadium before an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis

In this October 24, 2019, file photo, Native American leaders protest against the Redskins team name outside US Bank Stadium before an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis

ESPN’s Adam Schefter previously reported that the team will not use any ‘Native American imagery’ when adopting a new name and logo. 

Washington recently started cutting ties with racist founder George Preston Marshall, removing his name from the Ring of Fame and renaming the lower bowl at FedEx Field for the team’s first Black player, late Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell. 

One parody Twitter account poked fun at fans pledging loyalty to a team that has endured constant roster upheaval from year to year

One parody Twitter account poked fun at fans pledging loyalty to a team that has endured constant roster upheaval from year to year

One parody Twitter account poked fun at fans pledging loyalty to a team that has endured constant roster upheaval from year to year

Marshall, who renamed the Boston Braves the Redskins in 1933 and moved it to D.C. four years later, was a segregationist and the last NFL owner to integrate their team. The current logo shows the profile of a red-faced Native American with feathers in his hair. 

Events DC, a Washington-based sports promoter, recently removed a monument dedicated to Marshall. 

Long removed from the glory days of winning Super Bowl titles in the 1982, 1987 and 1991 seasons under coach Joe Gibbs, Washington has just five playoff appearances in 21 years and no postseason victories since 2005. The team has lacked a nationally marketable player since Robert Griffin III´s short-lived stardom, and the 2020 schedule features zero prime-time games for a franchise that used to be a draw.

Re-branding with a new name and logo – and perhaps the same burgundy and gold colors – coupled with turning football operations over to Rivera could be a boon for Snyder on and off the field. Even if a segment of the fan base opposes the change in the name of tradition, winning would more than make up for those losses.

One user suggested the team switch their name to the Washington Redwolves

One user suggested the team switch their name to the Washington Redwolves

One user suggested the team switch their name to the Washington Redwolves

One Twitter user suggested that other teams such as the Dallas Cowboys might consider a name change also

One Twitter user suggested that other teams such as the Dallas Cowboys might consider a name change also

One Twitter user suggested that other teams such as the Dallas Cowboys might consider a name change also

Some online users were not happy and the impending name change of the Redskins

Some online users were not happy and the impending name change of the Redskins

Some online users were not happy and the impending name change of the Redskins

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