The National Football League’s Washington Redskins are reviewing their racist team name, signaling that the derogatory slur could be on its way out for good.
“In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name,” the team said in a statement Friday.
The team said it has been having internal discussions about a possible name change for weeks. The new review comes after a national anti-racist movement that has seen thousands of protests across the country following the police killing of Minneapolis Black man George Floyd.
Redskins team owner Daniel Snyder has stuck by the slur for Native Americans for years, which has been used by the team since 1933.
Snyder’s sudden change of heart was likely due to increased pressure from major corporate sponsors including FedEx, which demanded the team change its name earlier this week. FedEx also owns the naming rights to the Redskins’ home stadium in the Washington, D.C., area. Other companies including PepsiCo and Nike also demanded the team change its name, and Nike appeared to remove all Redskins apparel from its website.
Native American activists have pointed out, however, that indigenous groups have been calling for the Redskins to change its name for decades ― long before this current zeitgeist and corporate intervention.
As writer and scholar Adrienne Keene, a citizen of the Cherokee nation, noted, nearly 7,000 Native Americans signed a 2014 petition urging the Redskins to change its “offensive” name.
The team has also faced multiple lawsuits from Native Americans over the disparaging moniker.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), whose district is home to several Native American tribes, applauded the decision by corporate sponsors to take action against the name.
“I have been working on this for a decade because I believe all people, including Native Americans, should be treated with dignity and respect — and not dehumanized as mascots,” McCollum said in a statement. “Now that the corporate community is joining the movement and putting the dignity of people over profits, it is a true example of transformative change and signals that we are at a tipping point. I commend Nike, FedEx, and others for taking action. Now it is up to the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell, and team owner Dan Snyder to do the same. Change the mascot. Change the name.”
Studies have shown that Native American sports mascots produce negative stereotypes and exacerbate racial inequalities.
Dominique Mosbergen contributed reporting.