Washing Away Racism: One Name at a Time

Washing Away Racism: One Name at a Time explores the Washington NFL teams recent decision to drop the name “Redskins” and explores the progressive steps being taken by big businesses


After 87 years of the Washington NFL team holding fast to the name “Redskins”, the NFL team has finally decided to retire the name and mascot for something more appropriate. The decision, which was announced on Monday, comes after several big name sponsors (FedEx, Pepsi, Nike) decided to take a stand against the controversial name. Big name retailers, from Target to Nike, removed Redskin merchandise from their websites and storefronts early last week, clearly determined to get ahead of any potential outcries as the P.C. movement continues to take on America. FedEx, the primary sponsor of the Washington Redskins, requested last week that team owner Dan Snyder change the name by the end of 2020 or face a loss of sponsorship, something Snyder and the Redskins cannot afford.

The logo, designed by former Blackfeet tribal chairman Walter Wetzel, depicts a Native American Chief modeled after his likeness on the Buffalo Nickel. While debate about the offensiveness of the logo and name continues on both sides, “Redskin” was often used as a derogatory term for Native American Indians, while the use of their logo was seen as cultural appropriation by some who fought to have the team’s name changed over the years. While the debate among Native American tribes seems to be split, with the son of the original logo designer claiming the use of the name and logo are not offensive, this sentiment is not shared by Native American groups at large.

Out with the Old, In with the New: Washington Redskins logo to be replaced

Personally, I find this sudden change to be a positive look into what large corporations like are choosing to allow from other groups they support. No doubt spurred on by the Black Lives Matter movement, which calls for the end of racial inequality and police brutality against minorities in America, corporations like FedEx and Target are choosing 2020 as their year to stand on the right side of history. By threatening to pull sponsorship for a team whose name and logo is seen as offensive to some groups of people, businesses are showing the public (particularly those marginalized groups) that their loyalty stands with them.

For years, I had wondered what it was about the Washington Redskins’ name that had Dan Synder so adamant about NEVER changing the name; in fact, during one interview, he told a reporter to use all caps when writing “never” to ensure his point was being made. However, after facing the loss of millions of dollars in marketing and sponsorship, it seems that NEVER might not have been as final as Synder originally believed. In a country like the United States, money talks. And when it does, you bet people like the owner of the Washington Redskins will listen.

But I’ll keep it short today. Whatever the reason for Synder’s sponsors sudden change of heart, from financial to philanthropic, 2020 has at least brought some good tidings when it comes to big businesses refusing to abide by offensive, outdated names. The future looks just a little brighter now as the businesses we have come to love have shown their support for their patrons, whatever walk of life they are from. So when the name Redskins is dropped for something more appropriate (the current ideas for name replacements can be found here), it will be nice to know that all those who had opposed it can sleep a little more soundly tonight, know that their voices have (finally) been heard.)

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