After mounting pressure from sponsors, investors and activists, the Washington Redskins have formally abandoned their team nickname, which dates to 1933.
On July 3, the NFL team had announced a review of the name and logo, which was widely interpreted as a signal that they would finally be changing.
“Today we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review,” the team said Monday in a statement.
Owner Dan Snyder and head coach Ron Rivera, the statement added, “are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of the proud, tradition-rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years.”
Activists had long attacked the name and logo as demeaning to Native Americans, but Snyder insisted that it was intended (and taken) as a sincere tribute to their courage. During the recent storm of protests over racial injustice, a period that has seen Confederate symbols taken down and a wide range of institutions reconsidered, the team name and logo seemed even more out of step to critics. This time, crucially, the circle of opponents widened to include Federal Express, which has naming rights to the team’s stadium and also a minority stake in the team.
Nike and Pepsi added their support for a name change, and Amazon and other retailers began pulling merchandise from the shelves. Cynics have noted, of course, that Snyder doesn’t stand to lose money from the changes, with new merchandise for the team likely to deliver a financial bump.
Washington’s football team was founded in 1932 as the Boston Braves. The team changed its name to the Redskins in 1933 and in 1937 relocated to Washington, D.C.
In recent decades, the team had fended off numerous pushes for it to change the nickname. During a rare interview in 2013, Snyder told a reporter the change would “NEVER” happen, urging the use of all-caps.
Long before the nickname became the source of bitter division, the team was generally not known as a hotbed of progressivism. In 1962, it became the last NFL team to add a Black player, future Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell. The move to integrate was forced by the league, and recently the District of Columbia removed a statue of former owner George Preston Marshall, who had resisted hiring Black players, from in front of its former home, RFK Stadium. The team also last month removed Marshall’s name from all of its official material, including their Ring of Fame, history wall and website.
Many sports nicknames with ties to Native Americans have been changed in recent decades. One of the most prominent in professional sports, the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball, told its season ticket holders in a recent mailing that it does not intend to change its name. It will review some activities such as the encouragement of the “Tomahawk Chop.”
Baseball’s Cleveland Indians are exploring a name change. In 2019, the team finally let go of its “Chief Wahoo” logo, a grinning caricature on caps and uniforms that was widely seen as demeaning.
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