A group of investment firms is lobbying Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to end their sponsorship agreements with the Washington Redskins unless the team changes its nickname.
The Redskins nickname has survived multiple challenges over the years, with many Native American groups labeling the name racist.
The latest move came in the form of letters sent Friday to the three companies, per Adweek. The request reportedly was backed by 87 firms, headed by First Peoples Worldwide, Oneida Nation Trust Enrollment Committee, Trillium Asset Management, Boston Trust Walden, Mercy Investment Services and First Affirmative Financial Network.
The group behind the letter have combined assets of $620 billion, according to the report.
First Peoples Worldwide director Carla Fredericks told Adweek, ‘This is a broader movement now that’s happening that Indigenous peoples are part of. Indigenous peoples were sort of left out of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s in many respects, because our conditions were so dire on reservations and our ability to engage publicly was very limited because of that. With social media now, obviously everything is very different.’
FedEx is the title sponsor of the Redskins’ home stadium, FedExField in Landover, Maryland.
The letter to Nike reportedly read, in part, ‘We appreciate that Nike has spoken up in support of the protests stating “Systemic racism and the events that have unfolded across America over the past few weeks serve as an urgent reminder of the continued change needed in our society. The Nike, Inc. family can always do more but will never stop striving to role model how a diverse company acts.”
‘However, Nike continues to provide uniforms and equipment to the Washington D.C. NFL football team which bears the logo and name. Further, it produces and sells thousands of jerseys and other apparel with the team’s racist name and logo. This association with and facilitation of the racism inherent in the name and logo runs contrary to the very sentiments expressed by the company.’
Adweek reported that Nike and Pepsi refused to comment on the letters while FedEx referred questions about the football team’s nickname to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
The Redskins also declined comment according to Adweek. A team spokesperson did not immediately respond to the Daily Mail’s request for comment.
Snyder has said that the team will not change the nickname as long as he is in charge.
Earlier this week, new Redskins coach Ron Rivera said it’s not the right time to address the team’s nickname.
‘I think that’s a discussion for another time,’ Rivera told Chicago radio station 670 The Score.
According to the Washington Post, the 58-year-old Rivera had yet to address the Redskins’ name, which Snyder has steadfastly refused to change in the face of accusations of racism.
‘I feel a guy that’s my age, my era, you know, that was always part of football, the name of the Washington Redskins.’
Rivera’s response contradicted Washington DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, who recently said it was ‘past time’ for the team to address a nickname that ‘offends so many people.’
Recently Events DC, a Washington-based sports promoter, removed a monument dedicated to team founder George Preston Marshall, who famously refused to integrate his roster until he was forced by the league to do so in 1962.
Likewise, the team removed Marshall’s name from the Redskins’ Ring of Fame at FedEx Field, as well as the stadium’s lower bowl, which has been renamed for Bobby Mitchell, the franchise’s first black player.
But despite those changes, Rivera, a former Chicago Bears linebacker, still argued that the time is not right to address the team’s nickname.
‘I think it’s all about the moment and the timing,’ Rivera said. ‘But I’m just somebody that’s from a different era, when football wasn’t such a big part of the political scene. That’s one of the tough things for me, too, is I’ve always wanted to try to keep that separate.
‘People have wanted me to get involved in politics while I was coaching, and I kept telling them, “It’s not for me to get up there and influence people.” I have my beliefs. I know what I think. I support the movements, support the players. I believe in what they’re doing. Again, I think there are certain elements to certain things that’s all about the timing and the best time to discuss those things.’
When asked again if he would listen to those who wish to change the nickname, Rivera was non-committal.
‘I’ll just say this,’ Rivera said. ‘I’ve done a lot of research on a lot of things that I do. I don’t go into any conversations not prepared.’
The origin of ‘redskin’ is disputed, according to a 2016 Washington Post article, that claims it was first used as a pejorative as early as 1863 in Minnesota.
‘The State reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory,’ read an announcement in The Winona Daily Republican. ‘This sum is more than the dead bodies of all the Indians east of the Red River are worth.’
By 1898, Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary began defining ‘redskin’ with the phrase ‘often contemptuous.’
Recently the Redskins drew criticism for a ‘#BlackoutTuesday’ tweet protesting racism.
‘Want to really stand for racial justice?’ asked Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter. ‘Change your name.’
Snyder, the owner, has ignored pleas from Native American groups who believe the name and logo are racist, and as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN Radio in 2018, ‘I don’t see him changing that perspective.’
The Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that a trademark law barring disparaging terms infringes on free speech rights. Prior to that, the United States Patent and Trademark office had tried to revoke the Redskins’ trademark because it was a racial epithet.
In 2016, Snyder wrote an open letter in which he responded to a Washington Post poll showing that 9 out of 10 Native Americans did not take the term ‘Redskins’ negatively.