Redskins to ditch name after sponsor pressure

Redskins-branded merchandise on display in a sports store as the Washington NFL team announced the logo and name would no longer be used. PHOTO: REUTERS
Redskins-branded merchandise on display in a sports store as the Washington NFL team announced the logo and name would no longer be used. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Activists have spent decades pressuring professional sports leagues, college programmes and high schools to abandon Native American names and imagery for their teams.

The biggest lightning rod has always been the National Football League's (NFL) Washington Redskins, long considered to be a racial slur.

Their owner, Daniel Snyder, has for decades said he would never change the name of one of American football's oldest and most valuable franchises.

But on Monday, under pressure from corporate sponsors, primarily FedEx, in the wake of the anti-racism protest movement triggered by the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a police officer, the team announced they would drop the logo and Redskins name from their name.

After 87 years, the Washington DC team will adopt a new name, which has yet to be revealed, becoming the oldest NFL team name to ever be retired.

Snyder said: "The new name will 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."

That Washington, among the sport's best-known franchises, were compelled to change their name likely adds pressure on the remaining professional teams with Native American mascots and logos to reevaluate their names and monikers.

Major League Baseball (MLB) outfit Cleveland Indians are already in the process of reviewing their name, having removed their divisive Chief Wahoo logo over two years ago.

The team said: "We are committed to making a positive impact in our community and embrace our responsibility to advance social justice and equality.

"Our organisation fully recognises our team name is among the most visible ways in which we connect with the community."

Fellow MLB outfit Atlanta Braves will not be changing their name after talking to Native American interest groups, but it will be evaluating the "tomahawk chop" - a popular gesture performed by their fans.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2020, with the headline 'Redskins to ditch name after sponsor pressure'. Print Edition | Subscribe