The Washington Redskins of the NFL and the MLB’s Cleveland Indians are under extreme pressure to change the names of their franchises. Both organizations’ names have come under heavy scrutiny amid the civil unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody on Memorial Day.
It appears that nearly 200 years of history is about to be erased if both teams move forward with a name change.
Prior to the July 4th weekend, the Washington Redskins announced that the NFL franchise would undergo a “thorough review” of its team name. ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news on Twitter, posting the team’s official statement.
“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. This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks,” the team said in a statement.
Team Owner Dan Snyder has stood firm in his stance against changing the team’s name for quite some time. Amid ongoing pressure from several political leaders and sponsors, however, Snyder may have no choice but to comply.
“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 National Football League, and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field.”
The Redskins are looking to relocate their home field from Maryland to RFK stadium in the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C. If Washington were to make the move, they would need to change the name of their franchise. Without a name change, the Redskins are stuck playing in Maryland.
“I call on Dan Snyder once again to face that reality, since he does still desperately want to be in the nation’s capital,” D.C.’s nonvoting House Rep. Eleanor Holmes 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.”
D.C. Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio also echoed Norton’s sentiments about a name change. “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.”
Last Thursday, FedEx released a statement, asking the Redskins to change the name of its mascot. The company said it had “communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.”
FedEx is the named sponsor of Washington’s stadium. They paid the franchise $205 million for the naming rights in 1998. The parcel company’s CEO, Frederick Smith, is also a part owner of the team.
According to a brief article published by AdWeek last Friday, 87 investment firms and shareholders worth approximately $620 billion sent letters to Nike, FedEx, and PepsiCo. They asked the companies to cease business relationships with the Redskins organization until they agree to change its controversial name.
Nike, which provides the NFL with uniforms and team apparel, removed all Washington merchandise from its online store. A search for “Redskins” will yield zero results. The entire team has been scrubbed from Nike.com.
The website’s filter no longer includes the Redskins name, and the last team listed alphabetically is the Tennessee Titans. Nike has yet to publicly address the removal of the Washington Redskins name and merchandise from its online store.
Manager of MLB’s Cleveland Indians, Terry Francona, on Sunday said “its time to move forward” with discussing the team’s controversial name. His comments came just two days after the team released its own statement.
“We are committed to making a positive impact in our community and embrace our responsibility to advance social justice and equality. Our organization fully recognizes our team name is among the most visible ways in which we connect with the community,” the statement reads.
“With that in mind, we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”
Francona acknowledged during a ZOOM call that he could no longer avoid the topic of his club’s name. Although the franchise removed Chief Wahoo logos from its game jerseys and caps last year, Francona believes there’s still more work to be done.
“I’ve been thinking about it… before we put out that statement. I know in the past… I would usually answer and say I know that we’re never trying to be disrespectful,” he said. “And I still feel that way. But I don’t think that’s a good enough answer today. I think it’s time to move forward. It’s a very difficult subject. It’s also delicate.”
The Indians skipper added that more needs to be done other than just talking. “I’m glad that we’re going to be open to listening. I think that’s probably the most important thing right now, is being willing to listen, not necessarily just talk.”