Washington NFL Team Asked by Stadium Sponsor FedEx to Change Nickname

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2020

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 24: A general view of a couple of fans in their otherwise empty section before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Detroit Lions at FedExField on November 24, 2019 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Amid pressure from investors, FedEx asked the Washington NFL franchise to change its nickname.

"We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name," a statement from the company read, per ABC 7 News in Washington, D.C.

FedEx paid $205 million for the naming rights to Washington's stadium in November 1999.

AdWeek's Mary Emily O'Hara reported Wednesday that a group of 87 investment firms had written three letters to Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo asking the companies to sever their business ties with Washington unless the team dropped its current moniker.

Frederick Smith, who founded FedEx in 1971 and is the company's CEO, is also a member of Washington's ownership group.

The implications of Thursday's statement were obvious given FedEx's connections to Washington:

As Americans continue protesting against systemic racism and social inequality, the team has taken steps to rectify one problematic aspect of its history.

Washington was the last NFL team to integrate, with founder George Preston Marshall steadfastly refusing to add a Black player to the roster. Marshall finally did so after the Kennedy administration intervened on the matter. Bobby Mitchell arrived ahead of the 1962 season.

The team removed Marshall's name from its Ring of Fame, and it renamed the lower bowl of FedEx Field in honor of Mitchell, replacing Marshall in the process.

Replacing the nickname, which critics argue is racist, has been a nonstarter for team owner Daniel Snyder, however.

"We'll never change the name," Snyder said to USA Today's Erik Brady in 2013. "It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."

His stance hadn't changed when interviewed by ESPN's John Barr in 2014.

"It's just historical truths, and I'd like them to understand, as I think most do, that the name really means honor, respect," Snyder said of the nickname's lineage.

FedEx's sponsorship deal with Washington averages out to almost $7.6 million annually. Were that deal suddenly in jeopardy, Snyder might finally have a change of heart.