Photo Courtesy of Sporting News
By Garrett Farrell
On July 3, Daniel Snyder, the majority owner of the Washington Redskins announced that the organization would launch a review of the controversial name. The announcement came a day after FedEx, the corporate sponsor that owns the naming rights to the team’s home stadium, asked the team to change its name. In addition to FedEx, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo also communicated to the team their desire for a name change, and Nike withdrew all merchandise for the team from their website.
The demand that the team changes its name comes during a national dialogue on race and ethnicity in the United States. Following the death of George Floyd, many major companies have altered their mascots which portray racial caricatures, such as Aunt Jemima syrup and Uncle Ben’s rice. These changes underscore the public belief that images such as the Redskins’ logo should be changed.
This announcement follows over three decades of controversy and complaints from Native American tribes over the name. The name was first introduced in 1933 when the team, then based in Boston, changed its home field to Fenway Park. Originally the team was known as the Braves and had played their home games in the same stadium as professional baseball’s Braves. The name resulted from the desire to keep the old imagery while avoiding confusion due to the move. Over 20 Native American Tribes have expressed their objections to the name, and the National Congress of American Indians began a campaign as early as the 1940s to remove imagery similar to that in the team’s logo.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has expressed support for changing the team’s name to something inoffensive, saying “In the last few weeks we have had discussions with Dan and are supportive of this important step.”
The announcement of the review has launched a great deal of speculation over what the team’s new name will be. Washington’s quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, has expressed support for the name “Red Tails,” an homage to the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all-African American group of fighter pilots in the Air Force. Three of the first pilots in the group were from D.C., and the standard plane for the group was nicknamed the Red Tail. Other names that have gained popularity are “The Washington Warriors,” “The Red Wolves,” and “The Red Stallions.”
In addition to Haskins, Washington’s newly hired coach, Ron Rivera, has shown optimism that the team’s name would be changed. Rivera said that he hoped that the name change would be completed by training camp.
Advocacy for a name change has reportedly been gaining momentum, with many outlets reporting that the team will remove all imagery of Native Americans. On Saturday, July 11, a senior NFL reporter for Yahoo sports reported that Washington would have a new name within the next 48 hours.