Under Pressure, Redskins Rapidly Move Toward Name Change

Amid a national reckoning over systemic racism and increasing corporate pressure, the Washington Redskins appear poised to change their controversial name. That unexpected realization is the result of an avalanche of potentially devastating financial implications for team owner Dan Snyder.

Calls to change the team’s name have gone on for decades. Snyder has previously vowed to “never” change the team’s name, which many Native Americans and others find offensive. But on Thursday, Fedex, a major team sponsor and namesake of the Redskins’ stadium in Landover, released a statement asking the team to change its name.

Shortly after Fedex’s announcement, Nike conspicuously removed all Redskins apparel from its website. The company did not publicly address the decision, further adding speculation that the Redskins name was on its way out. Once Pepsi reportedly threatened to cut ties with the Redskins as well, it became clear that Snyder needed to reverse course.

On Friday, the Redskins issued a statement announcing the team would review its name.

“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.”

Shortly after the Redskins released their statement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell offered his support as well.

“In the last few weeks we have had ongoing discussions with Dan and we are supportive of this important step,” Goodell said.

Head coach Ron Rivera appeared to foreshadow the franchise’s thinking about the new name in the team’s statement.

“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,” Rivera said.

The apparent hint at a military-themed name for Washington’s storied football franchise ignited speculation and suggestions across social media. “Warriors” and “Red Tails” are two names that have been mentioned often. Rumors have circulated that the “Warriors” are a leading contender for Washington’s new name, especially in light of Rivera’s reference to the military and the alliteration component. Red Tails refers to the nickname used for the Tuskegee Airmen, an all African American group of fighter pilots during World War II.

Redskins’ starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins, a Bullis High School alum, was one of many to weigh in on Twitter:

The fact that discussions are already underway to select a new name underscore how rapidly the situation has evolved for Snyder and the team.

Rivera sounded optimistic about the possibility of the new team name being in place for the 2020 football season which, barring a COVID-19-related delay, is scheduled to begin in September.

“If we get it done in time for the season, it would be awesome,” he told the Washington Post on Saturday.

The whirlwind of news surrounding the franchise continued Monday morning, as Pro Football Talk reported that three minority owners of the team are looking to sell their shares of the Redskins. Robert Rothman, Dwight Schar and Frederick W. Smith, who own a combined 40% of the team, are reportedly unhappy working with Snyder, even in light of his reversal on the team’s name.

The team’s new nickname figures to play an important role in wherever the franchise decides to build their next home. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has made no secret of the fact that the name “Redskins” was a non-starter for negotiations to build a new stadium in DC. Once the name changes, it would eliminate one hurdle from a potential return to the nation’s capital where the team played for 63 years – from 1933 until 1996

Despite all the uncertainty surrounding Washington’s football team, one thing remains increasingly clear: the “Redskins'” days are numbered.

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