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Major Sponsor FedEx Asks Washington Redskins To Change Name

Patch logo Patch 7/3/2020 Mark Hand
a close up of a helmet: FedEx, the Washington Redskins' most prominent sponsor and a company closely linked to the team, is calling on the team to change its nickname. © Shutterstock FedEx, the Washington Redskins' most prominent sponsor and a company closely linked to the team, is calling on the team to change its nickname.

WASHINGTON, VA — FedEx, the Washington Redskins' most prominent sponsor, is calling on the team to change its nickname. The announcement by FedEx follows a request earlier Thursday by a large group of investment firms and shareholders for other prominent sponsors of the Redskins to sever their relationships with the team over the team name.

"We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name," FedEx, the company with naming rights to the team's stadium, said Thursday in a statement to NFL.com.

FedEx paid $205 million in 1998 to the Redskins for the team's stadium naming rights in a deal that runs through 2025. FedEx founder, chairman and CEO Fred Smith also is a team minority owner.

For decades, Native American and other groups have been calling on the Redskins to change the name. Protests against the name have been held outside FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland and at other stadiums around the league. Native American groups and individuals have unsuccessfully filed trademark lawsuits against the team for its use of the Redskins name.

Attorney Jesse A. Witten said that even though his Native American clients, who view the team name as a deeply offensive slur, lost in the trademark case in 2017, the case succeeded in raising additional publicity about the team's name.

“There’s the legal case and then there’s the cause,” Witten said. “It was a galvanizing force that caused people to pay attention to the cause.”

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Synder has remained steadfast in his support for the team name. Snyder said in 2013 he would never change the name. Other members of the organization have reiterated that position in subsequent years.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser recently said the Redskins should change their name if they want to move back to the District. "I think it's past time for the team to deal with what offends so many people," Bowser said in a radio interview. "And this is a great franchise with a great history that's beloved in Washington. And it deserves a name that reflects the affection that we've built for the team."

Earlier Thursday, Adweek reported that a group of 87 investment firms and shareholders signed three separate letters to Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to terminate relationships with the Redskins unless it changed its name.

Brian Mitchell, the former running back and punt/kick returner for the Redskins, told Sky Sports on Thursday that it seems “inevitable” that the franchise is going to make the change in the wake of corporate pressure from FedEx and Nike. Mitchell, a popular analyst with NBC Sports Washington, said "eventually, the way things seem to be rolling now, it's inevitable."

In February, a new study found that at least half of more than 1,000 Native Americans surveyed are offended by the Washington Redskins' team name and Native American mascots in general. The findings run counter to other surveys, including one conducted by the Washington Post, that found most Native Americans aren't offended by the Redskins name.

The results suggest, according to the University of California, Berkeley study, that the controversy over the use of the Redskins name as well as native representations, such as chief headdresses, war cries and the tomahawk chop, is far from over.

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