The Washington NFL franchise announced Monday that it will drop the ‘Redskins’ name and logo immediately, bowing to decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans.
A new name must still be selected for one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the US.
The move came less than two weeks after owner Dan Snyder, a boyhood fan of the team who once declared he would never get rid of the name, launched a ‘thorough review’ amid pressure from sponsors. FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and Bank of America all lined up against the name, which was given to the franchise in 1933 when the team was still based in Boston.
In this December 15, 2019, file photo, Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins warms up before an NFL football game in Landover, Maryland. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen
FedEx threatened to pull its name off the Washington Redskins stadium in Maryland if the professional football team does not change its name, deemed by Native American groups and others as racist. Pictured is FedExField, home of the Redskins
The team said it is ‘retiring’ the name and logo and that Snyder and coach Ron Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design.
Native American advocates and experts have long criticized the name they call a ‘dictionary-defined racial slur.’ Over a dozen Native leaders and organizations wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week demanding an immediate end to Washington’s use of the name. Goodell, who has fielded questions on the topic for years, said he supported the review.
Protests against the name predate Snyder buying the team in 1999, and, until now, he had shown no willingness to consider a change. Strong words from sponsors – including a company run by a minority stakeholder of the team – changed the equation.
FedEx earlier this month became the first sponsor to announce it had asked the organization to change the name, particularly important because CEO Frederick Smith owns part of the team. FedEx also paid $205 million for the long-term naming rights to the team’s stadium in Landover, Maryland.
The lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027, and dropping the name keeps open various possibilities in Maryland, Virginia and Washington for the team’s new stadium and headquarters. District of Columbia mayor Muriel Bowser has said the name was an ‘obstacle’ to Snyder building on the old RFK Stadium site, which is believed to be his preference.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder previously said he wouldn’t be open to a name change
A man, Philip Martin McCaulay has registered trademarks for eight possible new team names
One common suggestion among fans on social media has been the Redwolves or Red Wolves
The team has hinted it would like to honor the US military with the name change in some way
Fans have floated several options, including the Red Wolves and the RedTails, the latter of which refers to the Tuskegee Airmen who flew for the US Air Force in World War II.
A man named Philip Martin McCaulay has already registered trademarks for the RedTails, Red Wolves, and several other possibilities, which could explain why Snyder’s team was not yet ready to announce a new team name on Monday.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, Rally against racism, Protesting the Washington Redskins’ name
Washington recently started cutting ties with racist founder George Preston Marshall, removing his name from the Ring of Fame and renaming the lower bowl at FedEx Field for the team’s first Black player, late Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell.
Marshall, who renamed the Boston Braves the Redskins in 1933 and moved it to D.C. four years later, was a segregationist and the last NFL owner to integrate their team. The current logo shows the profile of a red-faced Native American with feathers in his hair.
Washington DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said last month it was ‘past time’ for the team to address a name that ‘offends so many people.’
Bowser, 47, said that the nickname actually hinders the city’s efforts of getting a new stadium for the team. The club previously played at RFK Stadium just two miles east of the Capitol – a spot that could potentially be used for the team’s next home field.
Events DC, a Washington-based sports promoter, recently removed a monument dedicated to Marshall.
Long removed from the glory days of winning Super Bowl titles in the 1982, 1987 and 1991 seasons under coach Joe Gibbs, Washington has just five playoff appearances in 21 years and no postseason victories since 2005. The team has lacked a nationally marketable player since Robert Griffin III´s short-lived stardom, and the 2020 schedule features zero prime-time games for a franchise that used to be a draw.
Re-branding with a new name and logo – and perhaps the same burgundy and gold colors – coupled with turning football operations over to Rivera could be a boon for Snyder on and off the field. Even if a segment of the fan base opposes the change in the name of tradition, winning would more than make up for those losses.
In this October 24, 2019, file photo, Native American leaders protest against the Redskins team name outside US Bank Stadium before an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis
One user suggested the team switch their name to the Washington Redwolves
One Twitter user suggested that other teams such as the Dallas Cowboys might consider a name change also
Some online users were not happy and the impending name change of the Redskins