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FedEx, Nike Choose Sides in NFL Name-Change Debate

Yesterday’s Ticker included the news that investment firms and shareholders had asked three prominent ’Skins-associated corporations to stop doing business with the team. Those three companies were FedEx, which holds the naming rights to the team’s stadium; PepsiCo, which is a stadium concessionaire and also has the naming rights to one of the stadium gates; and Nike, which makes the team’s uniforms and sells team-branded merchandise.

It seemed like a potentially quixotic move. But by the end of yesterday, two of those three corporations had signaled their agreement with the name-change movement.

The first news came in the late afternoon, when FedEx announced that it had asked the team to change its name. This is particularly noteworthy because FedEx founder/chairman/CEO Frederick Smith holds a minority ownership stake in the team, so he has an interest on both ends of the FedEx/’Skins transactional relationship.

A few hours later, people started noticing that ’Skins apparel was no longer available on the Nike website. As of this morning, Nike has not yet issued any statement about this, but the message seems clear enough. (I’ll update this post if Nike makes a statement today, and/or as other developments warrant.)

These two moves feel significant. How will it look for a team’s own stadium name advertiser to essentially be disowning the team’s name? One way around that embarrassment would be for the team to release FedEx from its naming rights contract and find a new advertiser, but what company would want to purchase the naming rights in the climate that would result from FedEx’s departure? The rights would essentially be tainted. (Hey, maybe the stadium would revert back to its original moniker — Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. That could be a rare instance of Dan Snyder’s intransigence working for the public good!)

Similarly, while Nike is contractually bound to produce the team’s uniforms, their apparent decision to stop selling ’Skins merch is a slap in the face to the team. Much like the FedEx move, it has the effect of isolating and humiliating Snyder, and also exerting economic leverage on him via lost merch revenue.

As I’ve always said, Snyder has every right to call his team whatever he likes — a right I fully support — but he does not have the right to be free of public criticism or feedback, and right now he’s facing more of it. I have no idea if that will lead him to change his longstanding position regarding the team’s name, but the situation is clearly fluid and all sorts of dominoes are falling these days (who would have thought that the murder of a unarmed Black man in Minnesota would result in the state of Mississippi changing its flag barely a month later?), so I strongly suspect there will be more developments on this front in the days and weeks to come.

Meanwhile, last night I saw a lot of the same responses to the FedEx and Nike moves, so let’s shift into virtual-FAQ mode:

FedEx didn’t seem to object to the team name when they bought the naming rights in 1999, so why do they suddenly care now?

Standards of decency and public acceptability change, people change their minds about things (you’ve probably done that a few times yourself), corporate staff and boards undergo turnover that brings in new people with new ideas, and so on. The idea that a decision made 21 years ago is somehow etched in stone for perpetuity seems silly.

Yeah, but FedEx is obviously doing this just as a way of virtue-signaling. They don’t really care about Native Americans.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re right. Okay — so what? This isn’t a story about FedEx; it’s a story about an NFL team, and how that team’s corporate partners have decided, for whatever reasons, that the team’s name has become toxic, so they no longer want to be associated with it. The reasons for that decision matter less than the decision itself.

It’s pretty rich seeing Nike trying to claim the moral high ground when they operate sweatshops.

Actually, Nike hasn’t claimed any moral high ground. They’ve just decided, apparently, to stop selling a particular category of merchandise.

I think we’re all aware that Nike isn’t a morally pure company (and for all I know, neither is FedEx). But again: So what? This isn’t a story about Nike; it’s a story about an NFL team name that has apparently become radioactive.

But when Nike does something like this, they’re just being a big bunch of hypocrites.

One more time: So what? Accusing someone of hypocrisy is a classic example of a tactic I’ve often called out here on Uni Watch — attacking the messenger instead of engaging with the message.

Here’s a great example of what I mean: Back in December, the minority leader of the New York State Assembly posted a message on his website reminding people not to drink and drive. Then on New Year’s Eve, he was arrested on a DWI charge. Is he a big hypocrite? Yes, obviously. But does that somehow mean that his original message — “You shouldn’t drink and drive” — is somehow invalidated? Of course not. It was true when he said it and it’s still true now. He just turned out to be a very poor messenger for that particular message.

Similarly, if you think Nike and FedEx are poor messengers for the movement to change the ’Skins name, that’s fine. But the movement is still there, and now two powerful voices have been added to it, however imperfect they may be.

This is stupid. America is facing all sorts of problems right now — who cares about a football team’s name?

I completely agree that sports in general — not just this particular storyline — is a low-priority topic right now. But to whatever admittedly limited extent that sports matters, this storyline seems noteworthy.

Finally, here’s something I learned as a result of all this: All these years I mistakenly thought the stadium name was FedEx Field, but it’s actually FedExField (without the space). And now that I’ve finally learned it, it might be changing.

Update: Shortly after 11am Eastern today, the team released this statement:

I have two primary reactions to this:

1. There is no indication of how long this review is going to take or when it is scheduled to conclude, although I expect we’ll hear more about that soon.

2. The concluding quote from coach Ron Rivera about “our Military” is a total non sequitur that makes no sense at all — unless, as some have suggested, they’re going to change the name to Red Tails as a reference to the Tuskegee Airmen. So maybe that’s a hint/clue/etc.

Update: ESPN’s Adam Schefter is now reporting that he’s been told by a source that the “thorough review” of the team’s identity will likely result in a name change. It’s not yet clear what the time frame for that would be.

Update: The Washington Post is now reporting that the name change is essentially a done deal and could even take place as soon as this season (assuming there is a season, which is still not a sure thing). Here’s the key passage:

[T]wo people familiar with discussions between team owner Daniel Snyder, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and other league officials that led to Friday’s announcement said the review is expected to result in a new team name and mascot.

“You know where this leads,” one of the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They’re working on that process [of changing the name]. It will end with a new name. Dan has been listening to different people over the last number of weeks.”

Asked whether a change was certain, the person said, “I don’t want to say 100 percent. It’s very likely headed in that direction.”

A second person with knowledge of the situation said: “It’s not a matter of if the name changes but when.”

One of the people familiar with discussions between the team and league said the change “potentially” could take place before the 2020 season, currently scheduled to begin Sept. 10, and the other said “it’s trending that way.”

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ITEM! Theoretical T-shirt raffle: I happen to have an extra Pierogi T-shirt, size Large, that needs a good home, so I’m going to give it away to a lucky Uni Watch reader today.

This will be a one-day raffle, open only to U.S. shipping addresses (sorry). To enter, send an email with your shipping info to the raffle address by 8pm Eastern tonight. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner on Monday. Good luck!

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The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: With the minor league season now officially cancelled, the Toledo Mud Hens are selling a T-shirt calling themselves the “2020 Undefeated Champions” of the International League. No word yet on whether every single other MiLB team will do the same thing (from Brian J. Ristau). … A friend of Kurt Crowley sent along some pics of a Rochester Honkers/St. Cloud Rox Northwoods League game, where Rochester players socially distanced themselves down the left field line during the playing of the national anthem. Both teams were in turquoise jerseys. … Here are the logos for the teams participating in the Constellation Energy League, a league set up to help independent league players unemployed due to the pandemic (from Ignacio Salazar). … On something called The At Home Variety Show shown on NBC’s new streaming service, host Seth MacFarlane was wearing a baseball cap with a “Q Strong” logo in the Red Sox’s typeface. It appears to be a parody of the Red Sox’s “B Strong” logo, seen frequently following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, with the “Q” probably referencing fictional Quahog, R.I., where MacFarlane’s first and most successful TV series, Family Guy, is set (from Max Weintraub).

NFL News: All NFL teams reportedly plan to play “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” informally known as “the Black National Anthem,” prior to their Week One games. The article says the league “is also considering listing the names of [police brutality] victims on uniforms through decals on helmets or patches on jerseys.” … As previously reported, the league is also considering the use of protective face shields on the field, although players apparently aren’t in love with that idea. … The Broncos have a section of their website detailing the stories behind each of their retired numbers (from Kary Klismet). … The BC Lions are asking fans to pick the best player to ever wear No. 24 in team history (from Wade Heidt). … With New Englanders still smarting over the defections of former Pats players Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to the Bucs, a Rhode Island brewery has come out with a new beer called “Traitorade,” with the package design depicting a modified Bucco Bruce (from Jennifer Hayden).

NBA News: It appears the artist who designed NBA 2K21’s “Mamba Forever Edition” cover inexplicably added a Nike maker’s mark to Kobe Bryant’s jersey, even though Bryant retired before Nike logos began appearing on NBA unis. You can see the original photo that the cover is based on here (from multiple readers). … The NBA has begun laying down practice courts in hotel ballrooms. Note the D League stickers on the backboards (from multiple readers). … Yahoo Sports tweeted some “NBA free agency what-ifs,” Photoshopping players into uniforms they could’ve worn. The only problem is, some of them include jersey ads before jersey ads were a thing, and one of them shows two players on the same team in different uniforms (from Josh Claywell).

Soccer News: FC Girondins de Bordeaux of Ligue 1 have a new crest. Reveal video is here. … On a similar note, Kary Klismet sends along an article about five times European clubs controversially changed their crests, an article inspired by Girondins’ change. … Sheffield United’s new home and away kits have leaked. … Harry Kane’s Premier League sleeve badge was way off center during Spurs’ match against Sheffield United yesterday. … New wardrobe, including a new shirt advertiser, for EPL side Everton (thanks to all who shared). … Two from Ed Zelaski: New home kit for Atlético Madrid and new home/away shirts new home and away shirts for German side Hansa Rostock.

Grab Bag: The PGA is is renaming the Horton Smith Award, given annually to a PGA member for outstanding contributions to professional education, because Smith defended the PGA’s segregationist membership policy when he served as the group’s president in the 1950s. The award will now be called the PGA Professional Development Award. … A report from the UK’s House of Lords has recommended that betting advertisements be banned across all levels of sports in the United Kingdom, a move that would disproportionately impact soccer clubs. In England alone, half of the Premier League’s clubs have a betting advertisement; ditto for 17 out of 24 sides in the Championship, England’s second tier (from Bryan O’Nolan). … The England national cricket team will wear Black Lives Matter patches, just like the West Indies, when the two sides play each other next week (thanks, Jamie). … The McLaren F1 team has unveiled a new livery to support antiracism policies (from Kary Klismet). … Also from Kary, UC Riverside has a new athletic logo set.

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What Paul did last night: Tough porch session yesterday evening. We bickered about a longstanding point of contention between us, which ended up snowballing into a larger disagreement. Even from the rear vantage point, you can see that the Tugboat Captain looks pretty disgruntled. Hey, it happens. Happily, we patched things up later.

As always, you can see the full set of Pandemic Porch Cocktails™ photos here.

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Phil has the weekend off, but I’ll be back tomorrow with my annual Independence Day post. Everyone have a safe and healthy holiday weekend. Peace. — Paul

Comments (100)

    It does NOT matter if it’s not offensive to you, not offensive to some Native Americans, was acceptable in 1989, 1972, or 1932 and/or is a “legacy name” from a team of great tradition. It’s an offensive, racist moniker and companies associated with it have the right to change their stance on it. That’s business and this is 2020. Time to grow up. Time to toss the name on the scrap heap of NFL history.

    I always assumed Dollar Dan Snyder was going to leverage the name change for a huge ransom. It’s nice to see that his hand is being forced and the prospect of lost revenues may be enough to change his mind. Because simply doing the decent thing seems to be beyond his grasp. ESPN just reported that the team is undergoing a “thorough review” of their name. Because at no point did it dawn on them to see what all the fuss was about. Sheesh.

    My wife made a good point:
    “Why would they be so averse to changing the name? I thought re-branding was an opportunity to sell more jerseys and merchandise!”
    I love this cynical woman. She Gets It.

    If no one sensible takes offense to it, then it is ipso facto NOT “offensive.” And I’m willing to hear out arguments on the name’s racist nature, but not mere assertions. Additionally, the halfwitted notion that history has a “scrap heap” (even a metaphorical one) or that anything can be said to belong there is so much Whiggish cant.

    “If no one sensible…”

    Just stop right there. You grant yourself the luxury of defining who is and isn’t “sensible.” That’s not a good-faith argument; that’s just a tautology.

    Of course I do, Paul … just as each of us does. But I’d submit that Chuck’s assertions above are equally tautological.

    1. How do you define “sensible”?

    2. How do you identify or distinguish who is “sensible” from who is not “sensible”?

    3. “[T]he name’s racist nature” derives from its use as a racial slur of American Indians, coming into common use in the late 19th Century; by 1898, Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defined the term as, “often contemptious.” It was still being used as a pejorative in movies as late as 1940.

    4. The term “scrap heap” (of history) is obviously a metaphor for, inter alia anachronistic forms of oppression and injustice that rightly went away a long time ago, most of which seemed perfectly acceptable in their time but by modern sensibilities (there’s that word again) seem grotesque. Major League Baseball’s “color barrier” is a good example, although I confess I’ve never heard Branch Rickey (or Jackie Robinson) described as “halfwitted.”

    5. Are you referring to the American Whig Party or the British Whigs?


    As for 1 & 2, I quote: “not offensive to you, not offensive to some Native Americans, was acceptable in 1989, 1972, or 1932 and/or is a “legacy name” from a team of great tradition.” such priors suggest that the burden of argument rests with anyone who wants to argue against its being the sensible default.

    3. There are many words that some speakers have chosen to use with a pejorative or contemptuous sense. I am not persuaded that those speakers get the last word on whether the word’s acceptable–if anything, it seems like giving them too much power.

    4. I question whether “anachronistic” and “rightly” do anything other than beg the question here. And I *strongly* question whether “modern sensibilities” are worth deferring to merely because they’re modern sensibilties.

    5. I am referring to the well-known Whig theory of history, which paints the story of humanity as an inevitable progression of laudable steps towards ever-increasing liberty and enlightenment. In other words, tripe.

    I’m having a hard time making sense out of this after several reads-through.

    1 & 2 doesn’t really answer my questions, doesn’t say who you’re quoting (or what that person’s credentials are), and seems to mean nothing more than “If you agree with me or think the way I do you’re sensible; if you don’t, you’re not.”

    3. You asked for the basis of “the name’s racist nature” but it seems you weren’t really interested in that. Moreover, this is a rather lame excuse for perpetuating symbols of oppression and injustice. At the risk of violating Godwin’s law, I don’t think the Germans give the Nazis — who have all been dead for decades — “too much power” by banning their symbols and slogans. You’re “not persuaded” because you don’t want to be persuaded.

    4. What you’re saying here is, there’s no such thing as oppression or injustice (or that nothing is oppressive or unjust), so there is no need to identify, mitigate, or eradicate oppression or injustice. That’s fine if that’s what you believe; we’ll have to disagree on that.

    5. See #4.

    The “Whig theory of history” is kind of an esoteric allusion; I’m curious, where did you get your degree(s) in historiography? Which authors (other than Butterfield) did you study?


    1/2. I was quoting Chuck, the poster who kicked this thread off.

    3. A word’s pejorative use isn’t an automatic kiss of death for its use. If a Nazi symbol/slogan was widely used by others in the modern West, and if its Nazi associations were less than clear & direct, I’d say the same thing.

    4. I’m saying that modern notions of what counts as “oppression or injustice” aren’t inherently valid just for being modern. The mere fact that lots of contemporary people agree about something that their forebears have never clearly agreed on cuts no ice with me.

    Finally, the “Whig theory of history” is far from arcane knowledge exclusive to historiographers. If you’re a layman who’s curious enough about history, moral philosophy, and political theory, then you’ll run across it time after time after time.

    A lot of strawmen here. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that “[a] word’s pejorative use” is “an automatic kiss of death for its use,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. A racial slur is a racial slur; it doesn’t stop being a racial slur because it has (or takes on) other usages, or because some people aren’t aware that it’s a racial slur.

    Nor is anyone suggesting (and again, to the extent this makes any sense at all) that “modern notions of what counts as ‘oppresssion or injustice'” are “inherently valid just for being modern.” Again, oppression is oppression and injustice is injustice, no matter how long it takes society or mankind to recognize and rectify them. Again, the exclusion of non-white men from Major League Baseball was always unjust; it didn’t suddenly and/or arbitrarily become unjust in 1947, and certainly not because it was “modern.”

    And if I pressed you, Graf, I suspect you could give a reasonably decent account of WHY excluding non-whites from MLB was, and is, unjust. But I posted as I did because I’m not at all so sure that Chuck could say the same about why “Redskins” is objectively an “offensive, racist moniker” (to quote him). Call me oversensitive, but there’s something about such unexamined assumptions that just gets my goat.

    Again, a racial slur is a racial slur. What I’m getting from all this is, you simply don’t wish to see it as such. Which doesn’t make it not a racial slur, and more to the point, doesn’t make it an appropriate name for a sports franchise, in any year.

    Note also the very strong and necessary implication in your last comment, that you would not agree, think, or accept that “the exclusion of non-whites from MLB was, or is, unjust” unless someone “could give [you] a reasonably decent account of WHY[.]” That, I think, speaks louder than anything else you’ve written here.

    Maybe it does, Graf. But, you see, I don’t think such an account is particularly hard to come up with and articulate. It’s people who’ve seemingly never examined their assumptions enough to bother doing so who make me shake my head–and the original post above reeks of it, as does so much of the current discourse.

    That’s a rather pretentious position to take, given that your own comments don’t indicate any past or present “examination” of, or any willingness to “examine,” any “assumptions” that you’ve made; indeed they indicate the opposite, and rather strongly at that.

    I do think there’s a difference between assuming that a racial slur is a racial slur and assuming that it isn’t, but the difference is not what you think it is.

    Tell you what: next time I’m tempted towards broad assertions on Chuck’s scale, or towards risibly loaded locutions such as “it’s time to…”, I’ll try to remember to do as you say.

    Self-flagellation doesn’t impress me. You’ve made plenty of “broad assertions” and “risibly loaded locutions” such as “ipso facto NOT ‘offensive'” throughout this discussion. Your only basis for declaring that Chuck has “never examined” his “assumptions” is that they don’t match your unexamined assumptions. If you can’t be honest with the rest of us, at least be honest with yourself.

    Surprise, Graf: the burden’s not on me to demonstrate that something ISN’T offensive.

    In a forum like this, the “burden” isn’t on anyone to “demonstrate” anything. Moreover, when you make an affirmative declaration that something is “ipso facto NOT ‘offensive,'” the burden most certainly is on you to validate such an assertion. And the burden is on everyone to at least try to be intellectually honest and consistent, which you haven’t been, and to not throw stones from glass houses, as you have done.

    Anything can be subjectively offensive, which is to say, there’s always someone who might find it offensive. Some things, albeit very few, are objectively offensive. The “n-word” and the Nazi swastika are among them. I doubt that there is anything under the sun that is objectively inoffensive (i.e., “ipso facto NOT ‘offensive'”).

    You sure are wasting a lot of SAT words on a vague argument about the offensiveness of a word that is objectively, verifiably, undoubtedly a racial slur. Why are you so hung up on this?

    For what it was worth I was replying to Le Cracquere, not you. Not sure why the comment showed up directly under yours.

    Doesn’t Nike not selling Washington gear violate the agreement they have with the NFL? Will Dan be able to go out and do his own contract with another vendor? I remember back in the 90s when Jerry Jones signed exclusive rights with Pepsi while Coke was the NFL sponsor…not exactly the same, but similar.

    I have no idea what Nike’s contractual agreement with the NFL stipulates, and I assume you don’t have any idea either. For example, the contract might stipulate that Nike is obligated to produce the merchandise but could be silent on the issue of Nike *selling* the merchandise.

    It’s worth noting that team merch is still available elsewhere — just not on the Nike website.

    Here, here!
    Even monolithic orgs like the NFL can evolve, almost always pushed by external forces. Sometimes by the Feds, in this case the BLM movement allowing us all to ponder our Nation’s history of systemic racism. All of this in teeth of a Pandemic.

    It looks like Dan Snyder has a choice, change the name and get the RFK site for his new stadium, or stay in MD. Shaky ground all around. We just might be seeing a “new normal” happening before our eyes.

    I’m skeptical that changing the name gets him the RFK site. He can’t get it without changing the name, but the appetite for all of that land getting turned into a football stadium that gets used 8 – 12 times a year isn’t high. That isn’t to say the DC council can’t ram it through like the did with Nationals Park. However, Dan Snyder has spent 20 years being Dan Snyder, so nobody feels inclined to do him any favors. A new ownership group might have a shot.

    True dat. Snyder gets no pity here. What he is facing is a reckoning of decades of his own boobery.

    Traitorade folks have no idea where Tampa is. They’ve got Brady/Gronk landing somewhere near Sarasota.

    As a general principle, naming a stadium in honor of a person is to be preferred over selling the naming rights to a company. But Jack Kent Cooke Stadium would be the rare exception that is not better than FedExField. Because of the ownership connections, FedExField is closer to Wrigley Field than to SunTrust Park. Also, Cooke was a notorious racist who brought his bigotry to every aspect of his management of the team and who infected the wider league with some of his bigoted practices. To honor Cooke in this context wouldn’t be like statues of George Washington, where a slave owner is honored for accomplishments aside from his evil actions, it would be like statues of Jefferson Davis, where the man’s evil actions are inseparably a part of what he’s honored for. Naming the stadium for Jack Kent Cooke would be no better than naming the team with a racial slur. That would be no more an improvement over FedExField than it would be an improvement for the New York Red Bulls to dump their corporate name in favor of the non-advertising nickname Redskins.

    Fair enough. But to my mind, an honorific name for a person, however flawed or even despicable, is preferable to turning the building’s name into an advertisement by selling the building’s identity.

    If the proposed person being honored is flawed or despicable, we can (and should!) debate his/her worthiness of the honor. That debate is way better than the transactional system of selling building names to the highest-bidding advertiser.

    Who’s even to say if they chose to keep their nickname. They may just call their stadium something very generic (DC Stadium). Most likely they wouldn’t revert back to the older name. The Dolphins didn’t revert back to Joe Rubbie Stadium from 2006-2009 and just called it Dolphins Stadium).

    Are you sure about this, taken to the logical extreme? Say a New York stadium had been named “Bill Cosby Stadium” in the 1980s. Then, after all his skeletons came out, there was a movement to change the name of the stadium. For some reason (again, this is just a thought experiment), the ownership refused to change the name of the stadium to another person, but would change it to an advertiser. Obviously, you would pillory that ownership group for that decision/false choice. But you would actually prefer the “Bill Cosby Stadium” name to some generic brand name?

    Well, exactly. That’s an even further extreme; I tried to ground my example in one that could be plausibly true. But you said, “ But to my mind, an honorific name for a person, however flawed or even despicable, is preferable to turning the building’s name into an advertisement by selling the building’s identity.” That would include a stadium named for Hitler, or a more plausible name like Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein. I think, judging by your response, you would agree that it’s not always preferable. You take rigorous intellectual accuracy seriously in the comments with other people, so I just wanted to expand on that.

    Yes, even in the rather implausible scenario you suggest, I would rather have the civic debate about which public figures are worthy of elevated status and honor (which is, for example, precisely the debate the country is currently having regarding figures from the Confederacy) than treat building identities as transactional advertisements.

    I feel reasonably certain that the debate over Bill Cosby Arena would be an interesting one and would lead to a satisfactory conclusion.

    And as a follow up, I do think there’s some real life context to it. Say there’s a stadium named “Nathan Bedford Forrest Stadium.” That’s very plausible (maybe one already exists). I, for one, would feel ashamed going to that stadium, and given a lack of other options I would prefer it to be named after a brand. YMMV on that, but it’s a valid question.

    Totally valid question, I agree. So boycott the stadium, encourage others to do the same, engage in other forms of protest, etc., and see if you can spur change. That’s the civic process. Much better than treating every surface of our society as a billboard for rent.

    Scott, just be clear here, you’re not mistaking Jack Kent Cooke, the owner of the Washingtoon football team from for 1974 to 1999, with George Preston Marshall, the team’s owner from 1932 to 1970, are you? The reason I ask is that Marshall’s history as a virulent racist is well known (and led to him recently being pulled from the team’s Ring of Fame and a placard of him being removed from the grounds of RFK Stadium), but I’m unaware of accusations of similarly egregious racism leveled at Cooke.

    That’s not to say that Cooke’s character is immune from criticism. I lived in D.C. when he moved the team from RFK Stadium to their current home in Maryland, burning many figurative bridges in the city along the way. He certainly didn’t engender much public support by forcing the “city” name of “Raljon” (a portmanteau of his two sons’ names) onto the unincorporated area surrounding the new stadium. And his decision to keep the team name intact in the face of a movement to change it that dates back to at least the early 1970s can also be credited to him a a form of complicity with institutional racism.

    However, the only time I’m aware of Cooke himself being accused of racism came in an article published by the Washingtonian magazine in the early 1990s, when his former chauffeur relayed the alleged details of several scandalous conversations’s he’d had with the team owner. Cooke vehemently denied the claims, suing the magazine and securing a public apology from them while simultaneously calling into question the chauffeur’s mental competency and veracity. Here’a story about the whole episode:


    Is there anything I’m missing that would tie Cooke’s name to more serious instances of racist behavior? If so, I’d be open to learning more about it. But otherwise, I’d be much more comfortable with Cooke’s name on the stadium than George Preston Marshall.

    Ugh! So I just typed up a somewhat lengthy history of Jack Kent Cooke’s ownership of the team, but it appears to have disappeared into the ether. I’m not sure if it got caught up in moderation purgatory or if a connection glitch kept it from being properly transmitted. In any event, let me try this again (perhaps a bit more succinctly):

    Scott, are you sure you’re not conflating Jack Kent Cooke with George Preston Marshall? Marshall was well-known for his racism during his ownership of the team from 1932 to 1970. Cooke, who owned the from the ’70s through the ’90s, was a legitimate target for criticism in many areas (especially in connection with moving the team from RFK Stadium to suburban Maryland), but I don’t recall particularly credible allegations of racism ever being leveled against him.

    I’ve always maintained that the Washington NFL team will keep its name until doing so becomes cost-prohibitive, viz., until it costs more to keep it than to change it. Maybe the invisible hand of the free market is finally slapping Dan Snyder in the face.

    “Standards of decency and public acceptability change, people change their minds about things (you’ve probably done that a few times yourself), corporate staff and boards undergo turnover that brings in new people with new ideas, and so on. The idea that a decision made 21 years ago is somehow etched in stone for perpetuity seems silly.”

    Well put Paul, and how I (and I’m sure a lot of others) feel in my own personal journey as far as opinions on the Redskins nickname and Native American nicknames and imagery in general.

    While my opinions are still evolving on the topic overall, I have come to the conclusion that with the Redskins name, the time has come. As to the question change to what? One of the best ideas I’ve heard floated around is this:


    In honor of the Tuskegee Airmen

    From a contractual/legal standpoint, I’m not sure they can do that.

    They could make a public point of saying that they’re doing it under protest, however.

    I know that the line of hypothetical t-shirts pays tribute to regional food, but I think a Pittsburgh “PILATES” shirt would be hilarious for the gym.

    I love the “Washington Redtails” idea. Very much in the spirit of the BLM moment, and also would allow the team to continue to use their old school “R” script logo if they wanted to. I do not understand why so many people online seem to think “Warriors” is the best option when one of the highest profile teams in American sports is already named Warriors. Yes there are already some duplicates that have been established for decades, but for Washington to voluntarily create another muddled brand situation when it’s so important for them to establish a strong new identity to make a clean break from the old one seems very foolish.

    If the NFL Washington team changes their name, that will (hopefully) be a good deed for everybody. My concern is that once the change is made, the league may try to whitewash the name from NFL history (the way they tried with the original Ravens’ logo). Teams ought to own their histories.

    Walter, why would you make such a self-evidently apples/orange comparison between an intellectual property dispute (Ravens) and a situation that’s all about evolving cultural standards, not legality?

    You’re smart enough to know that the two situations aren’t even vaguely analogous. Why would you engage in such an obvious bad-faith argument?

    Whoops. That’s what I get for not concentrating. And that’s what I get for anticipating a problem that hasn’t happened yet.

    I’ll fess up to feeling four inches tall for feeling, “This is hard for me, I have emotional attachment to Washington’s team,” when I consider what the American Indians have been put through.

    Paul kind of beat me to it, but it should be pointed out that the NFL and the Ravens aren’t allowed to use that logo because they don’t own it. They have to be careful to avoid even showing it in archive game footage (although it does occasionally, inevitably, appear), not because they want to “whitewash” it, but because it’s not theirs.

    With respect to that Kobe picture in the ticker, the artist also changed Kobe’s shoes from the adidas Crazy 1s he was wearing in the pic (when he was sponsored by adidas) to Nike Huarache 2k4s.

    Rob Bradford of WEEI mentioned you today. His co-host had not heard of Uni Watch. Was kinda cool hearing your site mentioned.

    Just out of curiosity, let’s say on Aug 1 the team announces, “We’re now the Washington warriors.” Makes sense to me, you have a somewhat tangential yet respectful connection to the present name, nice alliteration with the WW.

    So how long of a lead time do all parties concerned need? Redo the logo, the colors, the marketing, pulling all current merch from supply chain, etc.

    I’ve never read the the logo itself is a problem per se, keeping it would streamline the process, yet for the sake of a total break from the past, it would have to go. Maybe just stick a stylized “W” in there, much like the “R” from the early 70s.

    I think it’d be best for the name change to remove any connotation to the previous name

    I’ve never read the the logo itself is a problem per se, keeping it would streamline the process, yet for the sake of a total break from the past, it would have to go.

    Brinke, if you don’t mind me adding my two cents to the discussion, I touched on the reasons why Washington’s logo is considered problematic by some in a reply in yesterday’s comments to a question from walter. To summarize, there are two main reasons that it raises concerns among some for being potentially racially insensitive:

    (1) While it’s a fairly straightforward image of a Native American man that seams reasonably respectful and doesn’t engage in the type of over-the-top caricaturing that Cleveland did with Chief Wahoo, some see it as having the effect of reducing the wide variety of individuals within the Native American community into a stereotyped image of a stoic “brave,” similar to what you would see on the obverse side of an old Indian Head nickel. In other words it obscures the cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and geographic diversity of a broad group of people by distilling these differences into a single stereotyped depiction.

    (2) Another thought is that any use of a marginalized or unintegrated people group’s likeness and imagery by a dominant group for such purposes as sports team mascots is inherently degrading and dehumanizing. The article that Paul mentioned in yesterday’s Ticker about the Chicago Blackhawks’ name includes several voices that make this point.

    I suppose a third point is that Washington has never made an effort to get permission from any Native American groups to use a logo that is meant to look like them or their ancestors. So no matter how respectful the logo may seem, it represents a culture and a history that is not the team’s to depict.

    For all these reasons, I think it’s highly unlikely that the ‘Skins will keep the logo if and when they change their name. Not only would it prevent that necessary clean break from the past, but it probably paint the name change as half-hearted, insincere, and tone deaf.

    The line from today’s post “when Nike does something like this, they’re just being a big bunch of hypocrites.” reminds me of a quote from the recent Beastie Boys doc.

    Adam Yauch (aka MCA), when pressed on the hypocrisy of his evolved views on women and the groups early, sexist lyrics/videos, said “I’d rather be a hypocrite than the same person forever.”

    It’s called ‘change’ for a reason.

    Great stuff as usual, Paul.

    I didn’t see it mentioned, but the School Board of my wife’s alma mater, Anderson High School, of Anderson Township, Ohio (Cincinnati), voted a couple nights ago to change their mascot from the “Redskins”. This after years of debate and disappointing dialogue with those who wanted change. They finally voted to change the name after a New York Times article drew negative national attention.


    The word “military” is not a proper noun, yet the Washington American football club coach capitalized it.

    I’m disappointed in Rivera’s comments about honoring the military and Native Americans. I hope Washington considers names that aren’t associated with either. I really like the idea of the Red Tails, but how does this honor Native Americans?

    Whatever the name change for Washington, I hope they keep their same color scheme and uni design.

    At first I had hoped that they would, but I don’t think that they will for several reasons, most of which would be the association with the name, but also that many fans, should they choose to remain fans, wouldnt purchase as much new merchandise if everything but the name stayed the same.

    Many of the teams that changed names also changed colors: Oiler to Titans, Browns to Ravens, Hornets to Pelicans, Bobcats to Hornets,

    Heck, even teams that kept the same name rebrand from time to time (and some return to the original colors down the road): Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Toronto BlueJays, Toronto Raptors, California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim) during their Disney rebrand, Anaheim Mighty to plain Ducks, Atlanta Hawks, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, LA Kings, Arizona Diamondbacks, etc.

    Who knows what’s going to happen, but I’m glad it is more likely than not they will change the name once and for all (and I hope there will never be throwback games, at least with the name or the logo).

    Wonder if they “‘lol ‘consider’ ditchIng their current colors for some combination of purple and orange, paired with a new logo that cleverly utilizes negative space…designed by Nike of course ; )

    Neon lime green has already been taken by Seattle so maybe they would take the orange. But it already feels dated and I think that the Bucs have more of a connection with orange and I don’t think they will let Nike design something for them seeing how Nike was one of the many companies that made Snyder change the team’s name (and I imagine that he is likely a petty person).

    Paul could hold a guessing contest or a poll of which colors fans (and non-fans) would like to see in DC.

    I understand tradition and all but to take this whole Washington football rename a different way, how much money can the team expect to make by changing their name? Fans will buy jerseys, hats, tshirts, all the stuff fans buy with a new name because you have to have it as fans,right? I guess what I’m saying is looking at it from ownership perspective, why couldn’t this be a win all the way around? I guess this is just a rhetorical question…

    I’m sure there would be plenty of opportunities for new merch sales to accompany a name change. I suspect those revenue streams would be offset somewhat by the alienation of a certain segment of the fan base who would boycott the name change, perhaps up to and including disavowal of their former allegiance to the team. With as vocal of a fan base as Washington has, I could imagine that being a not insubstantial portion of the fans.

    Another thing that might offset a bump in revenue from new merchandise sales is the manner in which the team dispenses with the old stock of merchandise. Do they keep it on the market until it runs out or pull it to replace it with items bearing the new team name? The former might come across as cynical and money grubbing, but the latter could certainly put a dent in team earnings.

    A legacy brand is more valuable in the long run than the short-term sales boost of a name or uniform change. There’s a reason why the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, Boston Celtics and Montréal Canadiens don’t change their names every five or ten years, which would make sense if a name change were “a win all the way around” in every case.

    At the end of the day, Washington will get a new name when keeping the old one becomes more expensive in the long term than adopting a new one. We may be at that point now.

    Question: If/when the Redskins change the name, how big of a process is this? Can it be done right away or does it take a year + ?

    I don’t think this would be a lengthy process. First, I don’t anticipate the team changing the colors, Snyder had a hard enough time even bending to change the name. Second, if the colors are kept, the uniforms wouldn’t need to change. The pants could stay the same, the only change to the jersey would be to remove or update the name from the neckline (if that’s even still there). So uniforms wise it would be a matter of changing the helmet stickers. I’m sure the NFL would waive the 4 year rule, though I don’t think it would even apply in this case.

    I’m sure there would be plenty of opportunities for new merch sales to accompany a name change. I suspect those revenue streams would be offset somewhat by the alienation of a certain segment of the fan base who would boycott the name change, perhaps up to and including disavowal of their former allegiance to the team. With as vocal of a fan base as Washington has, I could imagine that being a not insubstantial portion of the fans.

    Another thing that might offset a bump in revenue from new merchandise sales is the manner in which the team dispenses with the old stock of merchandise. Do they keep it on the market until it runs out or pull it to replace it with items bearing the new team name? The former might come across as cynical and money grubbing, but the latter could certainly put a dent in team earnings.

    Is this plausible and also the most simple solution?

    Washington Americans.

    You don’t have to do anything but change the name. No logo. No colors.

    You go to local Native American communities who for almost 90 years you’ve used a racial logo of theirs and offer them “operations” if you will. A fund made up of 25% of the team’s merchandise sales going directly to Native American communities for education, medicine, housing, and athletics. You incorporate these communities into your team’s culture and honor them out of your new stadium in DC.

    Or is it too late? I hate the idea of losing Native American imagery from the sport but I understand why it’s needed if it’s needed.

    Lucas, I’ve heard this idea floated before, and it has some appeal. It does feel like a certain amount of redemption could be achieved for the logo by tying it to the name “Americans” (a recognition of who the first Americans in fact were).

    Unfortunately, Dan Snyder and the team have spent decades doubling down on the name while dismissing critical viewpoints and refusing to meet with or even acknowledge representatives of the Native American community who wanted to engage with him in a respectful dialogue about the team name. At this point, it’s probably too late to salvage the logo from its association with that obstinate fight to keep the team name in place.

    Furthermore, it would probably come across as half-hearted and tone deaf to keep the log while replacing the name, as I mentioned above in a response to Brinke’s comment.

    At this point, probably the only way for major pro sports teams to keep Native American logos and imagery intact in the long term is to get buy-in from a cross-section of regional (and perhaps national) representation of Native American organizations, similar to what the NCAA requires. And because of Snyder’s belligerent stance on this issue for so long, I think he’s blown through whatever goodwill he might have had to use on building relationships with Native groups that could have helped him secure that approval.

    Plus it’s hard to trademark Americans or have it be obvious when saying “Americans” and have most people think about a football club immediately or even be the first 3 things that are associated with it.

    Lakers, Yankees, Maple Leafs, Raiders, 49ers, Mariners, Bulls. Heck, even Clippers or Rams.

    Paul, how would you feel about keeping the Native American imagery, and calling the team the Washington Americans?

    Something possibly in the works for Cleveland-

    (Hey, maybe the stadium would revert back to its original moniker — Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. That could be a rare instance of Dan Snyder’s intransigence working for the public good!)

    So you are saying all this team needs is to amend the stadium name then all is good? Disappointed.

    I just had to put this out there because it’s what I originally thought when I read your opinion but I understand what you were saying from reading the comments, all good.

    So it looks like Washington will get a new nickname but I’m OK with that let’s just keep the same colour scheme, please?
    No more yawner black red white uniforms.

    “Last of the Mohicans” by James Fenimore Cooper: I don’t have any problem with Washington renaming themselves the “Deerslayers” but I worry a lot of people might. “Hawkeyes” is nice but perhaps too closely associated with the University of Iowa. “Pathfinders”; perfect. Associated with a great piece of literature, and a lateral move. Publicizing the Partnership with Native Americans, and the American Indian College Fund would be a good deed, too.

    I suggest the name Tornado as a replacement name for the Washington football team. During the war of 1812, DC was occupied by the British who set fire to the town, and a tornado with its accompanying rain helped put out the fire and forced an enemy retreat. (Like all history some of these facts are questionable, but I doubt anyone finds the story if divine providence helping the nation objectionable).

    I think they could spin the story into a football narrative. The thought of a tornado defense seems especially iconic (assuming the team could back it up on the field of course)

    Not gonna lie. I kinda hope they go with the red tails moniker. It just makes sense given the market.

    As a proud Native American, I find this all FOOLISH! I’ve always viewed teams named after my ancestors as a source of pride, a nod to our fighting spirits. Why does everything have to be offensive in this complaining culture of ours? Sports is suppose to be fun. Let’s just do away with all mascots and assign every team a symbol. The Washington @ vs The Pittsburg #. No colors either! Just grey and off white. Oh wait I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend my white friends by putting the word off in front of it. My bad.

    I’m not sure I totally agree that “nickname” is appropriate. My understanding as a child (1980s) was that the team was Chicago and the “nickname” was the Bears. I mostly got that from my dad, who was kinda old-school and would say “Detroit vs. Chicago” rather than “Lions vs. Bears.” I wonder whether the terminology has evolved and we have people with both understandings.

    I’m totally with you on “mascot.” Schools like Ole Miss and Illinois have changed mascots without changing names. That’s not what Washington and Cleveland are talking about.

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