Update (July 3): With pressure mounting from sponsors including FedEx, Nike, and now Pepsi, Washington announced today it would consider changing the name of its franchise. Follow the latest here.
Now it’s getting serious for Daniel Snyder.
After investors and shareholders wrote a letter to FedEx, Nike, and PepsiCo asking the companies to cut ties with Washington’s NFL team, the most important one to the team’s identity is applying pressure.
FedEx, which pays $7.6 million per year to have its name on the football stadium in Landover, Md., has had enough of being associated with a racial slur.
“We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name,” FedEx said in a statement when asked by Deadspin about the issue on Thursday.
Selling the naming rights to what had been Jack Kent Cooke Stadium was one of the first big moves that Snyder made after buying the Washington team from Cooke’s estate in 1999. The $205 million deal over 27 years still is one of the most lucrative naming-rights agreements in the NFL.
Snyder has been under increasing pressure to change the name of his team as racial justice has taken a prime spot in the news, with companies around the world racing to show, whether out of sincere goodness, or opportunism, to back away from racially insensitive names. Last month, the Australian arm of Nestle decided to change the name of a candy that shared a moniker with the Washington team.
Washington is no stranger to seeing a team name change. The Nationals, of course, were the Expos before they moved to D.C. for the 2005 season, but before that, the NBA’s Bullets became the Wizards. Robert Pollin, the son of late Wizards owner Abe Pollin, has been among the proponents of a name change for the football team, and a documentary currently in production, “Imagining The Indian,” plans to focus sharply on Washington’s football team among other Native-named sports teams.
Snyder did show some willingness to address racial issues recently when Washington removed the name of former owner George Preston Marshall from a seating level at FedEx Field, naming it instead for Bobby Mitchell, the team’s first Black player. But Snyder has long refused all pushes to change his team’s name.
FedEx’s old tagline was “when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” We’ll see now if that applies now to a change of names for the football team whose building they sponsor.
UPDATE: Nike did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday, but as of Thursday night, all Washington gear was removed from their website, with the team not even appearing on the list of available options for merchandise — all 31 other NFL teams are listed.