NFL's Redskins announce review of name after sponsor threat

Washington Redskins
Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins have launched a review of the team's name, the NFL franchise said on Friday, following a fresh wave of calls to scrap the moniker long criticised as racist.

In a statement which came just 24 hours after Washington's stadium sponsor FedEx demanded a name change, the team said it would undertake a "thorough review" of the Redskins tag.

"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," it said.

"This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks."

Redskins owner Dan Snyder had long been resistant to changing the team's name - a term for Native Americans that is seen as a slur.

"We'll never change the name," Snyder said in 2018. "It's that simple. NEVER - you can use caps."

However, following the nationwide protests sparked by the death of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of police on 25 May, the Redskins' name has come under renewed scrutiny.

On Thursday, US delivery giant FedEx Corp - which paid $205 million to the Redskins in 1998 for the naming rights to the team's stadium - confirmed it had asked for a name change.

"We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name," FedEx said in a one-sentence statement.

Reports this week said that FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo all received letters from 87 investment firms asking the companies and others to sever ties with the Redskins over the name.

Nike did not immediately make a public statement, but the apparel giant removed Redskins merchandise from its online store on Thursday.

The Change the Mascot coalition of Native American groups, which has campaigned for years for the team's name change, welcomed FedEx's move.

"Change the Mascot praises FedEx and fully supports its historic request for Washington's NFL team to stop using the R-word racial slur as its name and mascot," Change the Mascot leader Ray Halbritter said in a statement.

Another sticking point - Snyder has long hoped to move the team back to the site of its former stadium within Washington proper. 

Officials say a name change is needed for that to happen.

"It's an obstacle for us locally, but it's also an obstacle for the federal government who leases the land to us," Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said last month of the Redskins name.

This week, her deputy John Falcicchio was more categorical, telling The Washington Post: "There is no viable path, locally or federally, for the Washington football team to return to Washington, DC, without first changing the team name."

NFL supportive 

Snyder said on Friday that the team planned to canvas opinion from across the community in its name change review.

"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 NFL and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field," Snyder said.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell welcomed the move, revealing the league had been engaged in extensive discussions with Washington about the matter. 

"In the last few weeks we have had ongoing discussions with Dan and we are supportive of this important step," Goodell said in a statement.

Washington head coach Ron Rivera, one of only a handful of minority head coaches in the NFL, also expressed support.

"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 in a statement.

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