FedEx ramps up pressure on NFL’s Washington Redskins to finally change team name

by Samantha Maya

The National Football League’s Washington Redskins are facing renewed pressure over their racist team name. And this time, it’s coming from Wall Street.

On Friday, FedEx—the delivery and freight giant that has sponsored the NFL franchise’s home field for more than 20 years—said that it has “communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name,” according to a statement obtained by ESPN

The move comes after FedEx, as well as fellow team sponsors Nike and PepsiCo, received letters from shareholders demanding they cut ties with the organization unless it changes its name, Adweek reported Thursday. The three companies are said to have each heard from nearly 90 different investment firms and shareholders worth a combined $620 billion, who are calling on them to end their relationship with the team so long as it is nicknamed after a Native American racial pejorative.

The Redskins organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

FedEx has owned the naming rights to the franchise’s Landover, Md., stadium since 1998, under a $205 million deal that runs through 2025, according to ESPN. FedEx founder, chairman, and CEO Frederick Smith also owns a minority stake in the team.

The reignited controversy is the latest chapter in a decades-long saga over the Redskins name, which has been used since 1933 and is again in the spotlight in the wake of social justice protests following the killing of George Floyd. For years, team owner Daniel Snyder has been steadfast in his refusal to budge on the matter, once telling USA Today: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps.”

Yet in a cultural moment that has seen statues of racist American luminaries taken down and the state of Mississippi finally remove Confederate imagery from its flag, it’s clear that tolerance for the archaic views and symbols still featured in American society is hitting an all-time low. Corporate America has proven no exception, as PepsiCo has witnessed firsthand; the company’s Quaker Oats subsidiary announced last month that it would be renaming and changing the logo of its Aunt Jemima breakfast brand.

Washington’s NFL team has budged to the pressure somewhat, having removed the name of founder George Preston Marshall from the “Ring of Fame” at its stadium, FedEx Field. Marshall was a vocal segregationist and under his ownership, the franchise was the last NFL team to integrate Black players into their roster, in 1962.

But not even multiple, high-profile court cases in which opponents sought to cancel the franchise’s trademarks—arguing that they violated federal laws prohibiting the trademarking of “disparaging” terms and symbols—have been able to divorce the team from its racist nickname and logo.

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