Top sponsors have taken a public stance. Minority owners are trying to jump ship, according to multiple reports. And as a new week begins, the Washington Redskins continue to face simmering — and steadily building — pressure to change their team name, which critics have long decried as a racial slur.
The organization is still in the midst of what it called a "thorough review" of the name. But here's the latest on the history of the "Redskins" moniker, the series of events that led to the team's review, when a decision might be reached and some of the potential names that have been floated by fans and oddsmakers.
Washington's NFL team was actually founded in Boston in 1932 and originally named the Boston Braves. One year later, the Braves became Redskins. And in 1937, owner George Preston Marshall moved them to D.C., where they became the Washington Redskins.
The term "Redskins," meanwhile, has roots dating back to the 1700s. Hunters collected bounties on Native Americans by presenting a victim's scalp or "red-skin." Yet for most of its existence, the word wasn't widely considered derogatory. That's changed recently, of course, with leading dictionaries labeling the term as "dated and offensive," and federal judges ruling that it is an offensive term.
Washington owner Daniel Snyder, meanwhile, has long defended the name as a matter of NFL tradition, while pointing to polls in which a portion of Native Americans say they are not offended by the name. In 2013, he told USA TODAY Sports the franchise would "NEVER" change it.
In short: The debate over "Redskins" as a nickname for sports teams has been ongoing for decades. This is just the latest, and arguably largest, swell in public pressure.
At the high school and college level, dozens of teams have moved away from the moniker — and others like it with Native American imagery and references. The NFL team has long been the target of criticism, too. In the early 1990s, a group of Native American leaders even went to court with hopes of invalidating the NFL team's trademarks for "Redskins," on grounds that the term is disparaging. A different group revived those efforts just a few years ago, though they ultimately fizzled.
The death of George Floyd in May brought issues of systemic racism to the forefront across the country, the NFL included. And that's what triggered the latest examination of Washington's team name — as well as others, like MLB's Cleveland Indians.
What are key stakeholders saying?
A few of Washington's top sponsors have been quite vocal on the issue. FedEx publicly requested Thursday that the team change its name. Nike and PepsiCo then put out statements Friday supporting Washington's decision to review the matter and move toward a change. Nike also removed all of the team's merchandise from its online store, and The Athletic reported it would not sell the franchise's items until the organization changed its name.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also chimed in Friday by calling the review an "important step." And more recently, three of the team's minority owners — who own about 40% of the franchise — have launched a bid to sell their shares, according to The Washington Post.
Reaction from within the team has been more muted. New coach Ron Rivera told the Post over the weekend that he believes the name should be changed, and quarterback Dwayne Haskins expressed support for "Redtails" as a possible replacement nickname if a change is ultimately made.
Two people familiar with Snyder's thinking, speaking on the condition of anonymity because no official decision had been reached, told USA TODAY Sports that "it's over," and the owner has little choice but to find a new name. The question then becomes when, and how, it will go down.
Will Washington announce that it is dropping "Redskins" first, then announce its new team name at a later date? Or will it make both announcements simultaneously?
The team could try to announce either or both by July 25 — the scheduled start of training camp — in an attempt to keep the name from becoming a "distraction" for players and coaches. In the aforementioned Washington Post story, Rivera said it would be "awesome" if Washington moved to change its team name before the start of the 2020 season in September.
Ultimately, though, the timeline of the decision-making process remains unclear.
The betting favorite, according to online sports book Bovada LV, is "Warriors" followed by "Presidents," "Red Tails or Red Clouds" and "Americans," in that order. We ranked the best and worst options over the weekend.
Rivera told the Post that he and other team officials had identified a few names they liked, but declined to reveal them.
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
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