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Washington NFL Team Drops Its Racist Name Following Decades of Activism

The retirement of the racist team name is official.

Washington NFL team owner Dan Snyder is seen on the field before a game at FedExField in Landover, Maryland, on August 19, 2017.

The Washington NFL franchise officially retired its racist name and logo.

And the saying goes: Never say never.

It’s the famous phrase coined by Charles Dickens but apparently a rule the owner of the Washington football team, Dan Snyder, doesn’t follow.

“We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps,” Snyder told USA Today Sports in a 2013 interview.

But pressure in 2020 began mounting as George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis spurred the crashing of racist symbols of all kinds across the country, including the Washington NFL franchise.

The Washington NFL franchise said it is retiring the team’s name and logo after completing its internal review, the team announced 9 a.m. Eastern Time Monday.

“On July 3rd, we announced the commencement of a thorough review of the team’s name,” the press release said. “Today we are announcing we will be retiring the (deleted) name and logo upon completion of this review.”

Synder and Coach Ron Rivera are working “to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years,” the statement said.

The new name and logo were not announced but will be revealed later. Warriors, Red Wolves and Redtails have ranked among the most popular among fans, USA Today reported.

A fresh start for the franchise seems to be caught up in a trademark battle, according to sources from multiple reports.

News broke over the weekend that team owner Daniel Snyder will retire the name and reveal a new team name Monday morning, according to USA Today.

Sports Business Journal reporter Ben Fischer also reported the news of the coming name change.

Earlier this month, the franchise announced that it would do a “thorough review of the team’s name” after mounting pressure by investors and business partners of the team. Amazon, Target, Walmart, Nike and Dick’s Sporting Goods have pulled team merchandise from their websites.

On June 26, a group of 88 investors representing more than $620 billion in assets sent an open letter to FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo calling for them to terminate business and public relationships with the team until the racist team name is changed.

Activists have been calling for Native-themed mascots to be retired since as early as the 1970s. Over the years, research from Native academics has shown Native mascots cause harm to Native people, especially Native youth.

Advocates like Suzan Harjo, Hodulgee Muscogee and Cheyenne, and Amanda Blackhorse, Dine, have been leading the fight for change.

Blackhorse, who is expecting, said Sunday on her public Facebook page that she is due any day now and will welcome a name change.

“Wouldn’t it be great for my Indigenous baby to be born into a world where there are no racist “Native mascot/names,” she wrote.

Native American advocacy groups have tried for decades to force a change, and a peer-reviewed UC Berkeley study released earlier this year revealed 67 percent of those surveyed who strongly identify as Native agreed or strongly agreed the name was offensive.

The death of George Floyd in Minnesota and other examples of police brutality against Black people in the U.S. sparked protests worldwide and changes to various brands considered racially insensitive.

Also on Sunday, the Atlanta Braves said it was not changing its name, but is looking at its controversial tomahawk chop celebration, according to ESPN. The Cleveland professional baseball team is also considering a name change. The team only removed its Chief Wahoo logo in 2019.

Here is a breakdown of the final events leading up to this long-awaited change starting 17 days before the change was made.

June 26, 2020:

  • A group of 88 investors totaling more than $620 billion in assets send a letter to FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo calling for the termination of business and public relationships with the team until racist team name is changed

July 3, 2020:

  • The Washington football team officially announces it will undergo a “thorough review” of its team name and mascot
  • Nike pulls Washington NFL franchise gear from website
  • Walmart discontinues sales of all items promoting the Washington team’s logo

July 6, 2020:

  • Target pulls Washington NFL team gear from its website
  • 14 Native leaders and organizations pen a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to require the team to “immediately change” its name
  • President Donald Trump tweets support of Washington NFL team, writing: “They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington (deleted) & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct. Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!”

July 8, 2020:

  • Amazon notifies sellers Washington NFL team gear will need to be removed within 48 hours

July 13, 2020:

  • Snyder announces the retirement of racist mascot. The new team name will be announced at another date.
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