The Washington Redskins announced Monday that they will be retiring their nickname and logo after completing a thorough review that began on July 3.
“Today, we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review,” the team said in a statement.
“Dan Snyder and Coach [Ron] Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition-rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years.”
It had been widely expected that Washington would change its name, and one source said Saturday night that an announcement of a new name would come soon.
Sports Business Daily reported that the announcement of a new name has been delayed because trademark issues are pending.
“The NFL and Dan Snyder have finally made the right call and Change the Mascot commends them for it,” Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative and head of the Change the Mascot campaign, said in a statement Monday. “This is a good decision for the country — not just Native peoples — since it closes a painful chapter of denigration and disrespect toward Native Americans and other people of color. Future generations of Native youth will no longer be subjected to this offensive and harmful slur every Sunday during football season.
“We have made clear from the start that this movement was never about political correctness, but seeking to prevent unnecessary harm to our youth, since we know from social scientists the many harmful effects this mascot has had on Native Americans’ self-image. Today marks the start of a new chapter for the NFL and the Washington franchise, beginning a new legacy that can be more inclusive for fans of all backgrounds.”
Last week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the franchise would not use any Native American imagery. Washington’s logo of an American Indian chief was designed by a Native American in 1971.
Another source told ESPN that the plan, as of now, is for the franchise to retain its use of burgundy and gold colors. Rivera had said the team wanted to include the military in its new name.
Carla Fredericks, the director of the American Indian Law Clinic and director of First Peoples Worldwide, said she did not want to see the team pivot to a name such as the Warriors. She said it would be considered a tie-in to Native Americans.
“Mostly because we have this really unfortunate history and one thing the Washington team has to think about is not just a change, but also making it right, and that [name] doesn’t seem like it’s headed in that direction.
“There’s no other racial group in America that has endured what we’ve endured as Native Americans, that has had every Sunday when we turn on the TV and see what we’ve had to see and experience what we’ve had to experience, perpetuating that seems out of step with the broader discussion of racial justice in the current moment.”
Asked about the Golden State Warriors and whether their nickname was OK or somehow different because of the lack of Native American logos, Fredericks said: “We’re just taking a very hard line on all of this, that anything that relates to Native American people or is evocative of Native American people has no place in professional sports. The hard line is important because of the lack of understanding about Native American people in our communities, so the clarity would go a long way toward better behavior by sports teams and fans.
“This is the moment for the Washington team to step into a leadership role, and it could be really positive. If the Washington team says we get it now, we messed up and we’re going to change and we’ll change in such a way where we don’t impact Native American people in anything that happens, that would send a very clear message in professional sports, and even scholastic sports, that we’re in a new era. … As I understand it, franchise owners are a pretty headstrong bunch and certainly empowered on their own to do what they think is right. It’ll be an interesting couple of months in every respect.”
The franchise said on July 3 that it would undergo a thorough review of its 87-year-old name, which is viewed as derogatory. By that point, multiple sources said, team owner Snyder already was engaged in talks with the league about a possible new name. Multiple sources said the name would change, but there was nothing official from the team.
Snyder for years had resisted consideration to change the name — telling USA Today in 2013 to “put it in all caps” that he would never make such a move. Some who have worked for Snyder said they believed he would rather sell the team than use a new name. While it’s uncertain what the next name will be, it is one that a source close to the situation said Snyder was excited about.
Snyder had owned the rights in the Washington area to any possible expansion by the Arena Football League, and he was expected to name that team the Warriors, even attempting to trademark the name — a quest he had abandoned.
Snyder and the franchise were under more pressure to change Washington’s nickname after protests against social injustice and police brutality began following the May death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Within a few weeks of Floyd’s death, multiple sources said Snyder had been discussing the name for several weeks with the league.
During that time, a letter signed by 87 investors and shareholders with a total worth of $620 billion was sent to sponsors FedEx, PepsiCo and Nike, asking them to stop doing business with the team unless its name was changed. When that was reported in an Adweek.com story on July 1, multiple people — including current and former employees — echoed the same thought: It’s over. Most, if not all, were unaware that a possible change was already in the works.
“The next immediate step is, while this morning’s announcement that the name and the logo will change — that’s critical — what are they going to use?” said Jonas Kron, senior vice president and director of shareholder advocacy for Trillium Asset Management. “There has been communication from a large group of Native American leaders that made it clear it needs to be a complete and total break from any Native American imagery or name, and we’re making sure that the sponsors are aware of that perspective. For the sponsors, if it’s not a clean break, then they’ll have ongoing reputational risks. For the sponsors, it’s in their best interest to have the reputational risk completely go away.”
On July 2, FedEx issued a statement saying it had told the team it wanted the name changed. The other sponsors later released statements saying the same. Amazon said it would stop selling the team’s merchandise. Walmart and Target said they would stop selling their gear in stores. And, according to The Washington Post, FedEx said it would remove its signage from the stadium unless the name was changed for the 2021 season.
FedEx signed a 27-year deal for $205 million in 1998. The company’s owner and CEO, Fred Smith, has been a minority shareholder in the franchise since 2003. However, according to multiple reports, he and the other minority investors, Dwight Schar and Bob Rothman, want to sell their stakes.
Snyder, his sister, Michele, and his mother, Arlette, own 60% of the franchise.