Money, Not Sensitivity or Empathy, Forced the Washington Redskins’ Name Into Retirement

Fans of Washington’s football franchise will be hailing to a new team rather than the Redskins.

Years after owner Daniel Snyder said he would NEVER — in all caps, he emphasized — change the Washington Redskins‘ name, the team retired the name and logo.

It wasn’t testimonials from those offended by the team’s name and imagery or a sudden understanding of empathy that brought upon a new era in Washington. The name change only happened for financial reasons.

Washington has officially retired the ‘Redskins’ name

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The Washington NFL franchise had been known as the Redskins since 1937. The United States was still years away from World War II, Jackie Robinson hadn’t yet crossed Major League Baseball’s color barrier, and a gallon of gas went for 10 cents.

Times have changed, though. Starting later this year, the franchise once known as the Redskins will have a brand new name.

Washington announced on July 3 that the franchise would conduct a “thorough” review of the team’s name. Thirteen days later, the Redskins name is officially slated for retirement.

The team said owner Dan Snyder and coach Ron 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 team did not announce a rough date for when a new name will be announced. Training camps open July 28.

The ‘Redskins’ name was a hot debate topic in the 2010s

Football fans have protested the Washington Redskins' name for years. Two fans held up these signs before a Redskins-Packers game in 2013.
Football fans have protested the Washington Redskins’ name for years. Two fans held up these signs before a Redskins-Packers game in 2013. | Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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Like Chief Wahoo and the Cleveland Indians in Major League Baseball or the Chop gesture that several teams do, the “Redskins” name had lent itself to debate for years.

It wasn’t until the 2010s, though, that conversations about the name change appeared more frequently. The rise of social media may have played a role, as did protests and op-eds which slammed the name and imagery.

Several outlets even stopped using the “Redskins” name. Some, like the local Washington City Paper, instead opted for names like “Pigskins” or just “‘Skins.”

Others only used terms like “Washington NFL franchise’ or “Washington football team.” The New York Daily News stopped using both the team’s name and logo in 2014.

It took money, not understanding, for Washington to change its name

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Dan Snyder told USA Today in 2013 that he would never — or as he viewed it, NEVER — change the Redskins’ name.

Ultimately, the bottom line spoke loudest. Amazon and Nike each stopped selling Redskins gear on their websites in recent weeks; Amazon even warned users that, “failure to properly close or delete all restricted product listings from your inventory may result in deactivation,” according to CNBC.

Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target, and Walmart are among the other major companies to stop selling Redskins merchandise.

Had those companies not spoken out, it’s entirely possible the Redskins’ name would be the same. The same companies that willingly sold and promoted Redskins gear for years eventually realized it wasn’t a safe decision anymore.

Washington didn’t change the name out of a sense of empathy for the self-identifying Native Americans who publicly complained about the name. It wasn’t a moment of understanding that the imagery offends people that spurred the change.

When Snyder — and by extension, the NFL — realized they would lose money indefinitely, it only made sense to retire the name.