US football team the Washington Redskins announced on Friday ‘the team will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name,” after the key sponsor as well as investment firms and shareholders renewed calls to change the moniker many view as a slur towards Native Americans.
Team owner Dan Snyder, who had long resisted the campaign for a name change said in a statement the process “allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise, but also input” from alumni, sponsors, the National Football League (NFL) and local community.
Shipping company FedEx asked for the rebranding on Thursday, as Nike pulled merchandise from the Washington, DC-based NFL team from its website.
FedEx said in a statement obtained by US TV sports channel ESPN it has “communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name”.
The company paid $205m to the Redskins for naming rights to the team’s home stadium in Landover Maryland in 1998 in a deal that runs through to 2025.
Frederick Smith, the chairman, FedEx’s CEO and president, owns a minority stake in the Redskins.
Last week, FedEx, Nike and Pepsico all received letters from a group of 87 investment firms that hold more than $620m in assets, requesting an end to business with the Redskins.
The calls were motivated by racial justice protests following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, according to the letter to Nike.
“Many of us have raised this issue with Nike for years to little avail,” investors wrote. “But in light of the Black Lives Matter movement that has focused the world’s attention on centuries of systemic racism, we are witnessing a fresh outpouring of opposition to the team name.
“Therefore, it is time for Nike 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.”
Nike, which provides the Redskins with gear, pulled the team’s merchandise from its online stores on Thursday night.
The team has used the name since 1933. Native Americans have pushed to change the name – which Indigenous activists often refer to as the “Slurskins” – for decades, including through court challenges and protests.
The Oneida Tribe of Native Americans of Wisconsin asked FedEx shareholders to pressure the team to change its name in 2014. Shareholders voted to stick with the name at that time.
Politicians, including former President Barack Obama, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser have also called for the team to change its name.
Want to really stand for racial justice? Change your name. https://t.co/XTlIJrfNx4
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 2, 2020