Washington , 4 July 2020 (dpa/MIA) – The Washington Redskins NFL team says it will review its name – widely seen as a slur towards Native Americans – amid mounting pressure from sponsors in response to a nationwide reckoning with racism.
“In light of recent events around the country … the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name,” according to a statement from the football team, which noted there have been “internal discussions.”
Shipping company FedEx directly asked the team to retire the Redskins nickname, according to sports broadcaster ESPN and local media outlets.
The company paid more than 200 million dollars for naming rights on the team’s American football stadium, giving it immense clout.
FedEx, along with Pepsi and Nike, this week received letters from major investors, asking that they sever ties to the Washington team if the name is not changed, Adweek reported.
Nike has removed the teams branded items from its merchandise website.
Redskin is seen as pejorative term for Native Americans, and would be considered taboo in every-day speech.
In related news, the Cleveland Indians, a baseball team, said it will “determine the best path forward” regarding their team name, ESPN reported.
The issue of the Redskins name has been ongoing for years, and reached a peak in 2014, when the Oneida Tribe, a Native American people, directly asked FedEx to cut its sponsorship, though the campaign failed.
However, in recent weeks, as the country was rocked by protests over racism and police brutality, attitudes have shifted and there is a growing movement for reform across many aspects of US life.
“We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name,” FedEx said in a statement published by local media.
Some schools in the US have changed their sports teams’ names in recent years, to get rid of slurs against Native peoples, but the NFL team has so far resisted.