In the wake of the protests after the killing of George Floyd, big brand companies like Pepsi have rebranded to show support against racial injustice. Several companies have joined in the removal of major brands whose names and images sparked controversy. Last week, the Washington Redskins name controversy again gained traction. Teams changing names is nothing new in sports. In 2007 the Tampa Bay Devil Rays dropped “Devil” from their name to reinvent themselves. While the Washington Redskins have been stubborn in refusing to change the team’s name, FedEx, Pepsi, and Nike officially announced their support for change.
FedEx requesting that the team change its name is a significant win for those in support of a name change, as FedEx owns the naming rights to the team’s stadium. The request came after 87 investment firms and shareholders sent a letter to FedEx, Pepsi, and Nike to stop doing business with the team until the name has been changed. On the same day, the FedEx asked for a name change, Nike removed all apparel from its website that included the word “Redskins.” Several critics of the name have pointed out that the team has profited for years for the use of the team’s use of a slur and has accumulated a team value of $3.4 billion.
The Redskins name controversy has been going on for decades. Still, it gained more attention in 2013, when the Oneida Indian Nation of New York sponsored radio ads to coincide with the games of the 2013 season, with targeted messages to change the team’s name. Government leaders, members of Congress, and President Barack Obama spoke out in support of these messages. The majority owner, Dan Snyder, said that he would “never change the name” even as more people spoke out in support of the name change. In 2017, professional sports dealt with several racial issues with individual acts by players to widespread protests during the National Anthem. The irony of the Redskins hosting a game on Thanksgiving was not missed by supporters of the name change.
While the name change seems imminent at this point, what the team’s new name will become is in the air, but a few names have been thrown out. For example, the Washington Redtails has been gaining support this month. The name Redtails is a nickname that comes from the WWII Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators in the U.S Armed Forces. The term ‘redtail’ was used to describe the planes’ distinct crimson tail. Another name thrown out was the Washington Red Hogs, which would be named after the Washington offensive line that helped the franchise win three Super Bowls. That way, the team can continue to honor the tradition and history of the franchise.
Several brands have rebranded over the past few weeks since the conversation of racial injustice gained more traction. The name change for the Washington Redskins has been going on for decades, and with multiple sponsors publicly announcing their support, the name change will happen sooner rather than later.
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