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Washington's NFL team drops 'Redskins' name after 87 years

Associated Press logoAssociated Press 13/07/2020 By STEPHEN WHYNO, AP Sports Writer
Signs for the Washington Redskins are displayed outside FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Monday, July 13, 2020.  The Washington NFL franchise announced Monday that it will drop the “Redskins” name and Indian head logo immediately, bowing to decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) © Provided by Associated Press Signs for the Washington Redskins are displayed outside FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Monday, July 13, 2020. The Washington NFL franchise announced Monday that it will drop the “Redskins” name and Indian head logo immediately, bowing to decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington NFL franchise announced Monday it is dropping the “Redskins” name and Indian head logo, bowing to recent pressure from sponsors and decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans.

A new name must still be selected for one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S.

FILE - In this Dec. 22, 2019, file photo, Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins works out prior to an NFL football game against the New York Giants, in Landover, Md. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Dec. 22, 2019, file photo, Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins works out prior to an NFL football game against the New York Giants, in Landover, Md. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The move came less than two weeks after owner Dan Snyder, a boyhood fan of the team who once declared he would never get rid of the name, launched a “thorough review” amid pressure from sponsors. FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and Bank of America all lined up against the name, which was given to the franchise in 1933 when the team was still based in Boston.

“The NFL and Dan Snyder, we have to commend them on making the right call to change the name,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, leader of the “Change the Mascot” campaign. “Dan Snyder won today because now he has a legacy that will be different from the racial slur that was the team name. I know that’s not an easy thing to do, but it was the right thing to do.”

FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2019, file photo, Native American leaders protest against the Redskins team name outside U.S. Bank Stadium before an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S.  (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2019, file photo, Native American leaders protest against the Redskins team name outside U.S. Bank Stadium before an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn, File)

The team said it is “retiring” the name and logo and that Snyder and coach Ron Rivera are working closely to develop a new moniker and design. The announcement came on the old letterhead with the Redskins name because the team technically retains it until a new one is chosen and approved.

Native American advocates and experts have long criticized the name they call a “dictionary-defined racial slur.” Over a dozen Native leaders and organizations wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week demanding an immediate end to Washington’s use of the name. Goodell, who has fielded questions on the topic for years, said he supported the review.

Protests against the name predate Snyder buying the team in 1999, and, until now, he had shown no willingness to consider a change. Strong words from sponsors — including a company run by a minority stakeholder of the team — changed the equation.

FedEx earlier this month became the first sponsor to announce it had asked the organization to change the name, particularly important because CEO Frederick Smith owns part of the team. FedEx paid $205 million for the long-term naming rights to the team’s stadium in Landover, Maryland.

The lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027, and dropping the name keeps open various possibilities in Maryland, Virginia and Washington for the team’s new stadium and headquarters. District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser has said the name was an “obstacle” to Snyder building on the old RFK Stadium site, which is believed to be his preference.

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

FILE - In this Dec. 26, 2015, file photo, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder walks the sidelines during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, in Philadelphia. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Dec. 26, 2015, file photo, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder walks the sidelines during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, in Philadelphia. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves and the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks have said they have no inclination to change their names. Some advocates would like to see all Native American names, mascots and imagery out of sports.

FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2020, file photo, Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera holds up a helmet during a news conference at the team's NFL football training facility in Ashburn, Va. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2020, file photo, Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera holds up a helmet during a news conference at the team's NFL football training facility in Ashburn, Va. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

“Our fight continues,” Crystal Echo Hawk of the Native American advocacy group IllumiNative said in a statement. "We will not rest until the offensive use of Native imagery, logos and names are eradicated from professional, collegiate and (other school) sports. The time is now to stand in solidarity and declare that racism will not be tolerated.”

Halbritter said it was important to note those other names are not a slur, but he hopes a “broader discussion” can be had. He pointed out that Florida State spoke with the Seminole tribe about its name, the same thing a minor league baseball team in Spokane, Washington, did with local Native Americans.

FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2019, file photo, Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins warms up before an NFL football game in Landover, Md. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2019, file photo, Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins warms up before an NFL football game in Landover, Md. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

It was not immediately clear if the organization is consulting Native Americans on a new name or if any imagery will even be used.

“I think it’s striking that the NFL and other owners of other sports teams don’t have a conversation with Native America on these names,” Halbritter said. “It’s about respect, and I don’t understand why they just don’t have a conversation with the affected people.”

Long removed from the glory days of winning Super Bowl titles in the 1982, 1987 and 1991 seasons under coach Joe Gibbs, Washington's NFL team has just five playoff appearances in 21 years and no postseason victories since 2005. The team has lacked a nationally marketable player since Robert Griffin III’s short-lived stardom, and the 2020 schedule features zero prime-time games for a franchise that used to be a draw.

FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2019, file photo, fans watch play between the Washington Redskins and the New England Patriots during the second half of an NFL football game, in Landover, Md. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S.  (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2019, file photo, fans watch play between the Washington Redskins and the New England Patriots during the second half of an NFL football game, in Landover, Md. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was unclear how soon that will happen. But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Re-branding with a new name and logo — and perhaps the same burgundy and gold colors — coupled with turning football operations over to Rivera could be a boon for Snyder on and off the field. Even if a segment of the fan base opposes the change in the name of tradition, winning would more than make up for those losses.

Rodney Johnson of Chesapeake, Va., sits on the back of his truck outside FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Monday, July 13, 2020. The Washington NFL franchise announced Monday that it will drop the "Redskins" name and Indian head logo immediately, bowing to decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) © Provided by Associated Press Rodney Johnson of Chesapeake, Va., sits on the back of his truck outside FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Monday, July 13, 2020. The Washington NFL franchise announced Monday that it will drop the "Redskins" name and Indian head logo immediately, bowing to decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2009 file photo, the Washington Redskins logo is shown on the field before the start of a preseason NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Landover, Md.  The Washington NFL franchise announced Monday that it will drop the “Redskins” name and Indian head logo immediately, bowing to decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans.  (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2009 file photo, the Washington Redskins logo is shown on the field before the start of a preseason NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Landover, Md. The Washington NFL franchise announced Monday that it will drop the “Redskins” name and Indian head logo immediately, bowing to decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
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