The stadium sponsor is the latest to urge giving the team a new name.
A big shoe might have just dropped on owner Daniel Snyder’s all-caps stance that he will “NEVER” change the name of his football team, the Washington Redskins.
For years, Snyder — who grew up cheering for the team and purchased it in 1999 — has remained unswayed. By anything.
Not outcries from Native Americans who deem the term “Redskins” offensive and on par with the N-word.
Not courtroom battle attempts of foes to strip him of his trademark.
Not critical assessments from pundits.
Not urging by then-President Barack Obama in 2015.
None of it caused Snyder to bat an eye.
But now, Snyder may have no choice but to relent.
It should have never come to this, but the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have finally shaken many to the point where they’re beginning to re-evaluate the severity of racism and racial insensitivities that plague our country.
The climate appears to be progressing to a place of greater awareness for individuals and corporations alike.
And that means a blow for Snyder. FedEx, the company whose name is plastered across his stadium, on Thursday issued the following statement:
“We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.”
Snyder can turn a deaf ear to media arguments. He can even dismiss the requests of Native Americans opposed to the name. He and members of his camp smugly point to the tribes that say they don’t care.
But when FedEx — the company that pays close to $8 million per year to have its name on the stadium, and whose CEO/president/chairman Frederick Smith owns a minority stake in the team — joins the fight, stuff gets real.
Now Snyder’s stubbornness could prove costly.
It’ll be interesting to see if other corporate sponsors like Pepsi and Nike follow suit. Thursday night, it appeared that Nike had pulled all Redskins gear from its site.
But regardless, it’s time for Snyder to do some soul-searching, humble himself and place himself on the right side of history.
With or without financial ramifications, he should welcome this opportunity to change the unflattering narrative that has long accompanied him.
Look, I get that the name carries great sentimental value to Snyder, whose father took him to games at RFK Stadium during the Joe Gibbs-led glory years.
I get that the sight of those colors bring him a great sense of pride every time he sees them.
Having grown up in the D.C. area, where I spent most every Sunday afternoon watching Washington’s games with my grandfather and father, I get the tradition.
But when that tradition offends others, when it causes pain to those whose ancestors heard that name slung their way in a derogatory nature, what does it matter?
Sure, it’s just a name. But now more than ever, because of Snyder’s stand, that name represents arrogance and insensitivity more than it does winning football.
I never thought about the name as a kid. Not until adulthood, once I got outside of my small-town bubble and began hearing of how the name bothered some, did my uneasiness over the use of it start to grow.
And now, as people of color have passionately demanded that this country take us seriously — in deed and not just lip service — how can we justify continuing to caricaturize a group of people just because the memories are great and the logo and the colors are cool?
I recently had a conversation with my brother, Stephen, about this very topic. We’d never talked about the name before this week, but he noted how it didn’t feel right supporting the team while simultaneously feeling a sense of relief as Confederate statues and flag — reminders for Black people everywhere of slavery and symbols of ongoing racism — finally were being done away with.
And he’s right.
I probably lost half of you right there. People are starting to get it, but plenty of Americans still want to argue that it’s heritage, not hate. They feel like the world has become oversensitive. But how can you tell someone not to feel something? How can you say their point of reference is wrong?
It’s the same thing with Washington’s name. It doesn’t matter if a football team is all that comes to mind for some. It doesn’t matter that some Native Americans are cool with it. The fact that others are not should be enough.
The only way that our country is ever going to heal and make true strides toward racial equality and harmony is for people of all races and backgrounds to develop empathy and truly respect our fellow man.
Clinging to a divisive name represents none of those needed qualities.
Sure, Snyder can accomplish plenty good while still rocking the Redskins name. He donates to many charities on American and foreign soil.
Back in 2016, his team gave just less than $4 million to more than 20 Native American reservations after many who had been asked about the nickname said they had many more concerning issues to worry about. Snyder tried to help solve some of those poverty-related matters.
Washington has honored World War II Navajo Code Talkers during pregame ceremonies.
But none of that absolves Snyder and fans who still love the name of racial insensitivity.
It shouldn’t take FedEx speaking out, the risk of other sponsors backing out of deals or the District of Columbia threatening the denial of a stadium deal without a name change to get Snyder to do the right thing.
He can understand that it’s time to remove the name of avowed segregationist team founder George Preston Marshall — who was the last owner to integrate — from the ring of honor, as the team recently announced.
Now, it’s time for Snyder to admit that sticking with the name that Marshall picked makes him no better.
Fans will still come to games. They’ll buy jerseys and hats of whatever rebrand the team would select. They’ll still come to games and celebrate every touchdown.
So Snyder really has nothing to lose. Instead, he can gain something that extends beyond dollars and cents.
He can send a message and do his part to help inspire the respect and progressiveness that our country badly needs.
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