Through a tumultuous series of events occurring over the past few months, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and leadership worked in unison on July 3 to review a possible name change of the oldest team in the NFL.
Just 10 days later, the organization announced that the team would retire the name “Redskins” and its logo of a Native American man.
“On July 3rd, we announced the commencement of a thorough review of the team’s name,” the franchise said in a statement. “That review has begun in earnest. As part of this process, we want to keep our sponsors, fans and community apprised of our thinking as we go forward. Today, we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review.
“Dan Snyder and Coach [Ron] Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years,” the statement said.
Washington, which has won three Super Bowls since being established in 1932, has reportedly narrowed down a few names that they are considering, but there is no set date of when the new name will be released to the public.
Following the death of George Floyd on May 25, the fight against inequality and racial injustice began to spark change, which prompted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to issue a pointed statement at the Washington Redskins.
“Want to really stand for racial injustice? Change your name,” Cortez tweeted to the team when it used the #BlackOutTuesday hashtag on a black image.
Since that statement on June 2, the Washington franchise’s name has been under scrutiny, with many arguing that the “Redskins” name is an offensive racial slur and disrespectful to Native Americans.
Though the team had a rich tradition of success, it also was marred with a history of segregation and mixed views of the name. However, Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins mentioned that he will still have an affinity for the phrase “Hail to the Redskins.”
“As a kid who grew up in the dmv it’ll always be #HTTR but looking forward to the future,” Haskins tweeted on July 13.
The Redskins name originated from team founder George Preston Marshall, who was the last NFL owner to sign a Black player. Marshall was formerly in the Washington Redskins Ring of Fame, but after the April death of Hall of Famer halfback/flanker Bobby Mitchell, the team’s first Black player, the decision was made to replace Preston’s name with Mitchell’s in the lower bowl of FedEx Field.
That decision also came after Marshall’s statue in front of the Redskins’ former home, RFK Stadium, was removed by Events DC and the current stadium owners. Since the removal of the statue, there has been staunch opposition of the team name from all directions.
Earlier this month, FedEx demanded that Synder change the name. Since then, major shareholders such as Nike and PepsiCo threatened not to do business with Synder unless the name changed.
The economic fallout continued as major retailers such as Amazon, Target and Walmart pulled Redskins merchandise from their stores.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser talked about how difficult it would be to bring the Washington football team back to the District having the Redskins name.
“I think it’s past time for the team to deal with what offends so many people,” Bowser said during an appearance on D.C.-based radio station WTEM earlier this month. “And this is a great franchise with a great history that’s beloved in Washington, and it deserves a name that reflects the affection that we’ve built for the team.”
The team’s FedEx Field lease doesn’t end until 2027, but following the announcement of an impending new team name and logo, there appears to be hope that the team could play in D.C. again.
In 2013, Snyder said that he would never change the name, but times have changed. One year later, former Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey said to USA Today that using the N-word was similar to Redskins.
“When you hear a Native American say that ‘Redskins’ is degrading, it’s almost like the N-word for a Black person,” Bailey said. “If they feel that way, then it’s not right. They are part of this country. It’s degrading to a certain race. Does it make sense to have the name?”
Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, sent an exclusive statement to the Washingtonian in June, urging that the time is now to remove the name.
“It is an insult that can no longer be retracted, a sin that can no longer be erased,” she wrote. “Since it’s too late to give the team name up, it’s time for it to be taken. It’s time for the players to rip down that name like it was a statue of a Confederate general in their locker room.”
The National Congress of American Indians is an American Indian and Alaska Native rights organization founded in 1944 to represent the tribes and resist federal government pressure for termination of tribal rights and assimilation of their people.
Sharp’s final sentiment in the passage was stern and similar to Nike abruptly removing Washington Redskins merchandise from its online store on July 2.
“When it comes to doing the right thing, there can be only one motto… Just do it,” Sharp said.