Report: Investors Ask Brands to Cut Ties With Redskins Unless Name Changed

Ben Krimmel
July 01, 2020 - 8:35 pm

External pressure could be mounting on Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the team's name after a report indicates many wealthy investors are pushing brands to cut ties with the franchise unless the team drops its nickname, which many consider a racial slur.

Three letters signed by 87 investment firms and shareholders have asked Nike, FedEx, and PepsiCo to end their relationship with the organization to pressure Snyder to change the franchise's name, according to a report in Adweek.

The letter comes on the heels of a renewed national focus on systemic and structural racism and a reexamination of logos with racist undertones in the wake of the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

" 'Redskins' remains a de-humanizing word characterizing people by skin color and a racial slur with hateful connotations. Virtually every major national American Indian organization has denounced (the) use of Indian and Native related images, names and symbols disparaging or offending American Indian peoples," the investor letter to PepsiCo reads. "We need to remember that the franchise name is not just a word, it is a symbol that loudly and clearly signals that Native Americans are not worthy of respect."

The letter cites PepsiCo's recent decision to sunset the Aunt Jemima brand as "an important and meaningful step." (Aunt Jemima brands used what was considered a racist caricature of a racial stereotype of a white families' Black female caretaker as its logo for breakfast foods.) The letter asks PepsiCo to "meet the magnitude of this moment, to make their opposition to the racist team name clear, and to take tangible and meaningful steps to exert pressure on the team to cease using it."

When asked for comment by Adweek, one of the recipients of a letter, FedEx said, “We direct any questions about the name of the NFL team in Washington to the franchise owner.”

Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, has been a staunch defender of the team's name which he says is an honorific. In 2013 he emphatically told USA TODAY Sports dropping the Redskins name would not happen.

"As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it's all about and what it means," Snyder said.

"We'll never change the name," he said. "It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."

However, the current nationwide focus on systemic racism may prove to be too much for Snyder to keep the name.

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy, and member of NBC's coverage of the NFL, was quoted today that he will no longer use the name during broadcasts.

“When I’m on the air, I try to just refer to them as Washington. I think it’s appropriate. If the team doesn’t want to change, the least I can do is try not to use it," Dungy told The Undefeated. “You can say, ‘This has been a historic name and we’ve used it for this team for X number of years, but in this day and age, it’s offensive to some people, so we’re going to change it.’ I don’t think that’s hard."

When asked Monday if it was time for the team to change their name, current Redskins head coach Ron Rivera said it was "a discussion for another time."

"It's all about the moment and the timing," Rivera told 670 the Score in Chicago. "But I'm just somebody that's from a different era when football wasn't such a big part of the political scene. That's one of the tough things, too, is I've always wanted to keep that separate."

And the investors are not Snyder's only problem. With the Redskins still looking to find a site for a new stadium before the team's lease expires for FedEx Field, the franchise's name could get them permanently cut off from returning to the RFK Stadium site, which many consider the most logical and potentially prosperous location for a new stadium.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington D.C.'s nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives, told The Washington Post Wednesday there is no path forward for a return to playing in the District without a name change.

“I call on Dan Snyder once again to face that reality, since he does still desperately want to be in the nation’s capital,” Norton said. “He has got a problem he can’t get around — and he particularly can’t get around it today, after the George Floyd killing.”

Congressman Raul M. Grijalva, chair of the committee oversees the National Park Service, who controls the land of the RFK Stadium site, told The Post the team's "racist nickname" made any move to the site a "non-starter."

“There is no viable path, locally or federally, for the Washington football team to return to Washington, D.C., without first changing the team name.”

The Post report noted officials stressed Norton's and Grijalva's comments don’t represent a threat, as much as a statement of fact.

In June, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called the name "an obstacle" when it comes to getting approval for a return to playing in the District.

"It's an obstacle for us locally, but it's also an obstacle for the federal government, who leases the land to us," Bowser said in a radio interview. "I think it's past time for the team to deal with what offends so many people."

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