Tony Dungy weighs in on Washington team name as investors, politicians push for change

Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy isn’t a fan of Washington’s team name. The coach has made a conscious decision to stop using the word “Redskins” when calling games, and believes the franchise could easily get rid of that name, according to William C. Rhoden of The Undefeated.

Dungy, 64, says the team can acknowledge its “historic name” but explains that it’s offensive and should be changed. From Rhoden:

“It’s not hard to change the name,” Tony Dungy, the Super Bowl-winning head coach and broadcaster told me recently. Dungy, like a number of other broadcasters and journalists, made the individual decision a few seasons ago to stop using the team name during broadcasts. “When I’m on the air, I try to just refer to them as Washington. I think it’s appropriate. If the team doesn’t want to change, the least I can do is try not to use it.”

Dungy added: “You can say, ‘This has been a historic name and we’ve used it for this team for X number of years, but in this day and age, it’s offensive to some people, so we’re going to change it.’ I don’t think that’s hard.”

D.C. officials, major investors call for change

Dungy has some pretty significant voices on his side. Investors and shareholders signed letters Wednesday urging Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to end their relationships with the franchise until the team changes its name, according to Adweek.

A total of 87 investors and shareholders — worth $620 billion — reportedly signed the letters. Adweek reported:

The investor letters to the three major brands are led by First Peoples Worldwide, Oneida Nation Trust Enrollment Committee, Trillium Asset Management, LLC Boston Common Asset Management, LLC Boston Trust Walden Mercy Investment Services and First Affirmative Financial Network. Another roughly 80 firms and trusts, many of which are social impact strategy investment firms or faith-based portfolios, signed on as well.

Those shareholders and investors argue those companies are going against their “commitments on diversity and inclusion” by supporting the team, according to Carla Fredericks of First Peoples Worldwide.

A collection of D.C. politicians have also called for Washington to change its name. House of Representatives nonvoting delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio and U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) all told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the team will need to change its name if it wants its new stadium to be in D.C.:

“I call on Dan Snyder once again to face that reality, since he does still desperately want to be in the nation’s capital,” Norton said. “He has got a problem he can’t get around — and he particularly can’t get around it today, after the George Floyd killing.”

Said Falcicchio: “There is no viable path, locally or federally, for the Washington football team to return to Washington, D.C., without first changing the team name.”

D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser has made a similar statement.

Even with changing tides in sports, same name in Washington

Team owner Dan Snyder has been resistant to changing the name in the past despite protests.

Other sports haven’t been as resistant to making changes. NASCAR banned fans from sporting the Confederate flag at races, the NBA is considering letting players make social justice statements on their jerseys and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would allow protests during the national anthem.

Snyder and the Washington football team haven’t been fully opposed to those changes. The team removed former franchise owner George Preston Marshall from its website and ring of honor. Marshall was the last team owner to integrate his team, and did so only after threats the team wouldn’t be allowed to play at RFK Stadium. Marshall was responsible for giving the franchise its current name.

Whether Snyder will change the team’s name remains to be seen. New head coach Ron Rivera ducked the question Tuesday, saying it wasn’t the right time to discuss the subject.

If sponsors listen to investors and cut ties with the franchise, that could be the thing that makes Snyder change his mind. A lot of money would be on the line if Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo suddenly stopped working with the team.

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