Washington Football Team Bans Headdresses, Face Paint at FedEx Field

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVAugust 4, 2021

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - JULY 29: (L-R) Kyle Allen #8, Taylor Heinicke #4 and Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Washington Football Team take part in a quarterback drill during training camp at the Bon Secours Washington Football Team training center park on July 29, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Washington Football Team announced Wednesday that "Native American inspired ceremonial headdresses or face paint may no longer be worn" in FedEx Field for the upcoming 2021 season. 

The move comes a year after the team dropped its racist nickname and logo. 

While many people had long decried the offensive nature of the name, change finally came before last season when a number of the team's sponsors—including FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and Bank of America—all spoke out against the nickname. Nike in particular pulled apparel with the team's name and logo from its online stores. 

Additionally, FedEx's pressure on the team to change the name was no small factor, given its stadium naming-rights deal with Washington and the fact that CEO Frederick Smith is a part owner of the franchise. 

"The NFL and Dan Snyder, we have to commend them on making the right call to change the name," Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter said following the change. "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."

Washington didn't have any fans at FedEx Field last season, so stereotypical Indigenous costumes and face paint weren't a problem. The franchise was proactive in addressing the issue as it welcomes back fans this season. 

Washington hasn't been the only franchise in professional sports to move away from Indigenous stereotypes and branding. Cleveland's baseball team announced in late July that it would be transitioning to a new nickname—the Guardians—following the 2021 season. 

Cleveland Indians @Indians

Together, we are all... <a href="https://t.co/R5FnT4kv1I">pic.twitter.com/R5FnT4kv1I</a>

That name was inspired by the "large landmark stone edifices—referred to as traffic guardians—that flank both ends of the Hope Memorial Bridge, which connects downtown to Ohio City," per ESPN.

"We do feel like we're doing the right thing and that's what's driving this," said team owner Paul Dolan. "I know some people disagree, but if anything I've gotten more and more comfortable that we're headed in the right direction. And actually, the selection of the name solidifies that feeling because of the values that the name represents."