As the conversation around racism reaches a crescendo, the Redskins face a rebrand.
The Redskins, once known as the Boston Braves, founded by George Preston Marshall, changed their name to “Redskins” in 1933 to avoid confusion with baseball’s Boston Braves. In 1971-72, the team had already tried to change its name, The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg documented. With protests in 1992 and lawsuits in 1999 and 2009, Native American groups have not stopped to push the team into looking into a new identity, now, it seems that is inevitable.
The Washington Redskins have announced plans to review its name, and giant retailers responded with Nike, Walmart, Target and Amazon pulling team products from its website and stores. As of Nike, its’s been one of apparel’s most vocal advocates for racial justice, so once it received some pressure, taking a stance probably wasn’t a difficult decision. Walmart tweeted it had begun removing the team gear: “We are discontinuing the sale of items that reference the team’s name and logo.” Target confirmed to Barron’s that it removed Redskins merchandise from its website, as well. According to Mary Emily O’Hara of Adweek, with reporting from Business Insider, Nike was one of three companies, alongside FedEx and Pepsi, to have sent letters by investors asking them to cut ties with Daniel Snyder’s team until it changed its name. FedEx, which has naming rights to the team’s 82,000-seat stadium since 1999 under a $205 million deal that runs until 2025, was among several sponsors to request last week that the team change its name. “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name,” a company statement read, per the BBC.
According to Investopedia, the team ranks seventh among the most valuable NFL teams in 2019 with a value of $3.4 billion, increasing by 10% from 2018. Owner Dan Snyder, who paid $800 million for the team and its stadium, marking it the most expensive sporting team transaction in history at the time, has delayed for years the calls to change the team name, but as the conversation around racism reaches a crescendo, it looks like he’s finally backing down. In 2013, when asked if he would consider it, he told USA Today he would “never” do so. According to The Team 980’s Kevin Sheehan, there’s actually already a front-runner for Washington’s new name — and, in fact, there may have been for a while: the Warriors.ESPN’s Adam Schefter and John Keim reported that Washington plans to keep its colors of burgundy and gold “as of now.” Other city teams like The Capitals, Nationals, Mystics and Wizards all wear red, white and blue.
More than a fourth of NFL teams have overseen a name change during the league’s first 100 years, reports CBS Sports.
Risks of losing money over a rebrand?
Business-wise, if the name isn’t changed, Inside Hook reports, Dan Snyder may completely lose the team’s lucrative corporate sponsorships, which means a rebranding will likely be a financial win no matter what. If Snyder wants to get his burgundy and gold team back in the black in terms of merchandise sales, he should greenlight a name change sooner rather than later.
“If it costs you seven figures to go through a rebrand, but your naming-rights partner wants to take you to court, or your pouring-rights partner says they’re pulling out … the economics of it are no longer tenable,” David Carter, an associate professor of sports business at USC’s Marshall School of Business, told The Washington Post.