NFL: Corporate partners press Washington Redskins to consider name change

Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum
Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum. Photo credit: Getty

Washington Redskins will undergo a thorough review of the team's name and mascot, with a switch potentially occurring for the 2020 season.

"It's not a matter of if the name changes, but when," a source has told the Washington Post.

Owner Dan Snyder, who bought the team in 1999 for US$800 million, has long resisted calls to change the name, but after the surge in the fight for social justice, Snyder now seems willing to listen.

The organisation says it has held "initial discussions" with the league recently about its name.

"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 organisation, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field," Snyder says.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he appreciates Snyder's efforts.

"In the last few weeks, we have had ongoing discussions with Dan and we are supportive of this important step," he says.

Corporate pressure could be forcing Snyder's cooperation, with the Memphis-based delivery company that lends its name to FedEx Field - the Redskins' home ground - issuing a statement this week.

"We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name."

The company owns the naming rights to the stadium under a 27-year, US$205 million deal that went into effect in November 1999.

Washington Redskins merchandise
Washington Redskins merchandise. Photo credit: Reuters.

FedEx has another major tie to the Redskins - founder/chairman/chief executive Frederick Smith is also a minority owner of the team.

PepsiCo has also tweeted its support of a name change.

"We have been in conversations with @NFL and Washington management for a few weeks about this issue," the company posted. "We believe it is time for a change.

"We are pleased to see the steps the team announced today and we look forward to continued partnership."

According to NFL Network, Nike says: "We have been talking to the NFL and sharing our concerns regarding the name of the Washington team.

"We are pleased to see the team taking a first step towards change."

Nike's website has removed all Redskins merchandise and Washington was the only one of 32 NFL teams no longer listed in the index.

In his first season as Washington head coach, Ron Rivera says he will take part in the review.

"This issue is of personal importance to me, and I look forward to working closely with Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting native Americans and our military," he says.

Calls for the club to dump the nickname have been made for decades, but a 2016 Washington Post poll of 504 native Americans found that 90 percent were not offended by the Redskins nickname. The poll included people in all 50 states and Washington DC.

In 2013, Snyder made his position on the matter clear, saying: "We'll never change the name, it's that simple.

"NEVER - you can use caps."

The franchise began using the Redskins nickname in 1933, when it was based in Boston and previously called the Braves. Team owner George Preston Marshall moved the club to Washington in 1937.

Last month, Marshall's statue was removed from the Redskins' former Washington venue - RFK Stadium - during protests seeking racial equality, after the death of George Floyd. Under Marshall's leadership, the Redskins were the last NFL team to integrate, adding their first black players in 1962.

The Washington football team's potential name is still up in the air, but in 2009, the Washington City Paper said Snyder had bought franchise rights for an Arena Football League team and registered trademarks for the name 'Washington Warriors', with a logo and helmet design that featured an arrow and a feather.

Washington are scheduled to open the season at home against Philadelphia Eagles on September 13.