For years, people have been urging Dan Snyder to ditch the Redskins name for his team and come up with a different nickname. He always ignored those cries and insisted on keeping the name. But things changed this summer when controversy over racial injustice reached perhaps the highest level it’s ever been at in the country, and there was a renewed push for the Redskins to drop the name.
This time, team investors and sponsors joined the cry for a new name, and with that meant a potential loss of tens of millions of dollars — if not more — for Snyder and the team. When it started to threaten his wallet, Snyder finally relented and did away with the Redskins name after almost 90 years.
Recent racial injustice protests in America
When George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis in May, it sparked protests across America, and beyond, with people wanting racial justice for all people, regardless of race. The protests picked up steam throughout the summer when similar deaths occurred in the subsequent weeks and months. And the sports world was not immune.
In addition to increased pressure on Snyder to change his team’s name, teams in all of the major U.S. pro sports leagues taking place — including the NBA and NHL playoffs — decided to use their influence to call for change by deciding not to play for a day or more and having their games postponed.
Shareholders and investors convinced Dan Snyder to change the name
Dan Snyder is the Washington Football Team’s majority investor and public face of the ownership group, but he’s far from the team’s only investor. As AdWeek tells us, during the summer 87 of the team’s shareholders and investors sent letters to three of the team’s biggest sponsors.
Those investors, with a total net worth of $620 billion, urged the major sponsors to end their business relationships with the franchise if it failed to change its controversial name.
Newsweek detailed contents of the letter, in which the investors wrote that “the R-word … is offensive and hurtful to American Indian and Alaska Native people,” in addition to having “harmful effects” on their populations, including the youth.
The letter continued that “despite the team’s arguments to the contrary, the R-word is not a term of honor or respect, but rather, a term that still connotes racism and genocide for Native peoples.”
Sponsors respond to calls for change
The investors sent the letters to three global companies that are all major sponsors of the team:
- FedEx, which is the naming sponsor of the team’s home stadium, FedExField
- Nike, the official apparel supplier of the NFL
- PepsiCo, the team’s beverage and snack partner
After receiving the letters from the investors, Pepsi and FedEx responded by publicly announcing that they supported a name change for the franchise. Nike’s response was even more damning, as the popular clothing manufacturer announced that it would stop selling merchandise with the Redskins name or logo in its stores, both online and brick-and-mortar.
That move led to potentially a significant loss of revenue for the team, especially since other major retailers like Amazon soon followed Nike’s move.
These companies’ moves not only brought about bad publicity for the Redskins, but also could have cost the team tens of millions of dollars. FedEx threatened to end its naming rights deal for the stadium after the upcoming season, which would have prematurely ended the $205 million deal scheduled to run through the 2025 season.
The move by Nike and other retailers to pull all Redskins merchandise from their stores also would have been costly to the team, in addition to lost sponsorship revenue if the companies, and others, would have pulled their sponsorships.