Washington’s NFL team have confirmed they will get rid of the name “Redskins” and logo, officially distancing themselves from a term that has been described as a “dictionary-defined racial slur” by experts and advocates.
The team confirmed the decision on Monday in a statement posted on their official Twitter account, which still has the handle of the team’s former name.
“Today, we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review,” the team said in the statement. “Dan Snyder and Coach 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 news was welcomed by Ray Halbritter, a Oneida Nation representative and head of the Change the Mascot campaign.
“The NFL and Dan Snyder have finally made the right call and Change the Mascot commends them for it,” Halbritter said in a statement. “This is a good decision for the country – not just Native peoples – since it closes a painful chapter of denigration and disrespect toward Native Americans and other people of color. Future generations of Native youth will no longer be subjected to this offensive and harmful slur every Sunday during football season.
“We have made clear from the start that this movement was never about political correctness, but seeking to prevent unnecessary harm to our youth, since we know from social scientists the many harmful effects this mascot has had on Native Americans’ self-image. Today marks the start of a new chapter for the NFL and the Washington franchise, beginning a new legacy that can be more inclusive for fans of all backgrounds.”
It is unclear when a new name will be revealed for one of the league’s oldest franchises. Sports Business Daily, which first reported Monday’s news, said that the new name has not been confirmed because trademark issues are pending. When Washington’s basketball team changed their name from the “Bullets” the process took two years to complete, although the NFL team are understood to want to wrap the process up more quickly due to the anti-racism protests that have swept the nation in recent months.
— Rich Jr. (@Rich8LambertJr) July 3, 2020
Possible alternative names that have been raised include Warriors, Senators, Red Wolves and Red Tails. The latter has polled well with fans, already has a logo and is a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, the United States’ first black military pilots. Washington’s quarterback, Dwayne Haskins has expressed his support for Red Tails. It is understood the team will keep its famous burgundy and gold colour scheme.
Washington owner Dan Snyder announced in a 3 July statement that his team were launching a “thorough review” of the 87-year-old nickname and that the NFL supported the idea. That came in the aftermath of the team’s prominent sponsors, FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and Bank of America, asking them to change the name. Until that corporate pressure was applied, Snyder had shown no indication he would change the name since buying the team in 1999. Indeed, in 2013 he told USA Today that he would not change the team’s name and the newspaper could put his quote “in all caps”.
FedEx is the title sponsor of the team’s stadium in Landover, Maryland, and the chief executive, Frederick Smith, is a minority owner. Nike and other companies have pulled team equipment from their online stores.
More than a dozen Native American leaders and organisations wrote to the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, last week demanding an immediate end to Washington’s use of the name. In the letter that was obtained by the Associated Press, they said they “expect the NFL to engage in a robust, meaningful reconciliation process with Native American movement leaders, tribes, and organisations to repair the decades of emotional violence and other serious harms this racist team name has caused to Native Peoples”.
Last month, the team removed the name of their racist founder, George Preston Marshall, from the Ring of Fame at FedEx Field, and a monument to him was removed from the site of the old RFK Stadium.
Washington DC’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, also said the name was an “obstacle” to the team returning to the District. The lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027, and they are still talking to Washington, Virginia and Maryland about building a new stadium.
The team’s decision comes as the NFL reckons with its position on civil rights and racism. Last month, the league admitted it had been “wrong” not to listen to players protesting against racism and police brutality in the United States.