Washington NFL team officially abandons name after decades of criticism

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The Washington NFL franchise announced Monday that it would abandon the name “Redskins” and the Indian head logo after completing a thorough review, bowing to decades of criticism that it was offending the Native Americans.A new name has yet to be selected for one of the oldest and most legendary teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon this would happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in professional sports in North America has disappeared at a time when racial injustice, iconography and racism are taken into account in the United States.

The move came less than two weeks after owner Dan Snyder, a childhood fan of the team who said he would never get rid of the name, launched a “thorough review” under pressure from sponsors . FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and Bank of America all aligned with the name, which was given to the franchise in 1933 while the team was still based in Boston.

The team said it was “removing” the name and logo and that Snyder and coach Ron Rivera were working closely to develop a new name and design.

WATCH | Professional sports teams are reconsidering Aboriginal nicknames:

CBC News Raffy Boudjikanian reports on the Washington Redskins ‘plans to revise their nickname, followed closely by the Cleveland Indians’ decision to reconsider their team’s nickname. 2h30

Native American defenders and experts have long criticized the name they call “dictionary-defined racial insult”. More than a dozen Indigenous leaders and organizations wrote last week to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to demand that Washington’s use of the name be stopped immediately. Goodell, who has been asking questions on the subject for years, said he supported the review.

Protests against the name date from Snyder’s purchase of the team in 1999, and so far he has shown no willingness to consider a change. The strong words of the sponsors, including a company run by a minority part of the team, changed the equation.

Removing name keeps stadium options open

Earlier this month, FedEx became the first sponsor to announce that it had asked the organization to change its name, which is particularly important since CEO Frederick Smith owns part of the team. FedEx also paid US $ 205 million for long-term naming rights for the team stadium in Landover, Md.

The FedEx Field lease expires in 2027, and the abandonment of the name opens up possibilities in Maryland, Virginia and Washington for the new stadium and team headquarters. District of Columbia mayor Muriel Bowser said the name was an “obstacle” to building Snyder on the former site of the RFK stadium, which he would prefer.

Washington recently began cutting ties with racist founder George Preston Marshall, removing his name from the Ring of Fame and renaming the lower bowl of FedEx Field to the team’s first black player, the late Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell. Marshall, who renamed the Boston Braves the Redskins in 1933 and moved the team to DC four years later, was a segregator and the last NFL owner to join their team. The current logo shows the profile of a red-faced Native American with feathers in his hair.

Long gone from the glory days of winning Super Bowl titles in the 1982, 1987 and 1991 seasons under coach Joe Gibbs, Washington has only five playoff games in 21 years and no post-season wins since 2005 The team has not had a nationally marketable player since Robert Griffin III’s short-lived celebrity, and the 2020 schedule has no prime-time matches for a franchise that was previously a draw.

The re-branding with a new name and logo – and perhaps the same burgundy and gold colors – coupled with the transfer of football operations to Rivera could be a boon for Snyder on and off the pitch. Even if a segment of the fan base opposes renaming the tradition, winning would more than make up for those losses.

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