The Washington NFL team is finally doing it. After years of pressure and controversy, the team has launched a “thorough review” of its racist and derogatory nickname. The move came shortly after the team’s most prominent corporate partner, FedEx, called for a change. “In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community … the team will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name,” notes a statement by the NFL team. “This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.”
Although the team offered few details of what the review will entail, sources tell the Washington Post that the effort is expected to end with a new team name and mascot. “It’s not a matter of if the name changes but when,” a source told the paper. Two sources tell the Wall Street Journal the name change is likely to happen before the 2020 season begins.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was supportive of the review and noted that there had been discussions about the name with the team’s owner, Dan Synder, in recent weeks. “In the last few weeks we have had ongoing discussions with Dan and we are supportive of this important step,” Goodell said. Snyder had long vehemently defended the team’s name and famously insisted in 2013: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps.” On Friday, Snyder said the team would analyze input from all stakeholders before making a decision. “This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” Snyder said.
The team has been resistant to pressure to change its controversial name for years but it seems the calculus changed recently amid the nationwide protests over police violence and systemic racism. Investors and shareholders have been increasing the pressure on sponsors to sever ties with the team unless it changed its name. And the sponsors appeared to have been listening. Pepsi celebrated the team’s decision to review its name. “We have been in conversations with the NFL and Washington management for a few weeks about this issue,” a PepsiCo spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “We believe it is time for a change. We are pleased to see the steps the team announced today, and we look forward to continued partnership.” It wasn’t alone. “As a partner and sponsor, we have encouraged the team to change the name and we welcome this announcement,” Bank of America said in a statement. Nike also applied pressure on the team by apparently removing all of its merchandise branded with the Washington NFL team’s name and logo from its online store on Thursday.