Another day, another embarrassment for the Washington Redskins. The latest public relations headache for Dan Snyder's beleaguered team? A group of activists opposed to its nickname has written to FedEx to challenge the company's continued sponsorship, USA Today reports.
This ad hoc clique, which includes Oneida Indian frontman Ray Halbritter and leaders of the United Church of Christ, asks the delivery giant to consider pulling its money from Snyder's team. It would be a hell of a statement: Snyder, after all, signed a long-term, nine-figure pact with FedEx shortly after taking over the Redskins, and what was Jack Kent Cooke Stadium became FedExField.
One of the protesters' grievances has to do with Snyder honoring known no-goodnik George Preston Marshall, an architect of the NFL's segregation policy and the last owner to integrate his team. They cite the presence of a stadium deck named after Marshall as among the reasons to divest from Landover.
From the USA Today piece:
The decision to name part of FedEx Field after this segregationist was not merely a holdover from a bygone era," the letter says, citing the stadium's 1997 opening. "Perhaps worse, team officials have chosen for years to use the FedEx-branded stadium to continue honoring Marshall in this way, at the very same time they claim they do not intend to offend people of color by promoting and profiting from the R-word racial slur Marshall used as the team's name.
As Washington team spokesman Tony Wyllie explained to the paper, previous team owner Jack Kent Cooke had sections of his eponymous stadium named after various Hall of Famers—Sammy Baugh, George Allen, Vince Lombardi, Joe Gibbs, and Pete Rozelle, in addition to Marshall—and Snyder merely didn't change the section names when he bought the team. This casts the team's continuing homage to one of football's most notorious racists as rather passive, and not something for which the owner is really to be blamed.
Wyllie's assertions are semi-true. But the whole story is a little less forgiving to his boss.
Snyder did indeed inherit those named sections, but he hasn't kept all of them. Last summer, Snyder rather quietly changed the name of the Joe Gibbs Level at FedEx Field to the StubHub Club Level as part of a five-year deal with the massive online ticket broker.
In other words, Snyder is perfectly happy to take his pieces of silver to sell out Joe Gibbs, the holiest figure in Redskins history—but "George Preston Marshall" and "Redskins" are untouchable.
This just doesn't wash. The StubHub/Redskins deal likely provides a clue as to how this whole naming debacle will end: With Snyder accepting a check and forgetting all the blather about the team's traditions embodying "strength, courage, pride, and respect."
Photo via Associated Press