The National Office for Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated told Deadspin that the organization would be “honored” to work with the NFL franchise in Washington D.C. if it were to change the name of the organization to the Washington Red Tails.
The Red Tails were a nickname given to the heroic military aviation group called the Tuskegee Airmen who were the first Black aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps. The original group of Airmen is most known for their stellar battle record in World War II, which helped to desegregate the military. They were given the name the “Red Tails” because many in the group painted the tails of their aircrafts crimson.
“If the Washington D.C. NFL franchise chooses to rename themselves as the Washington Red Tails, it would honor the Tuskegee Airmen legacy and be symbolic for all of America.“ the organization said in a statement given exclusively to Deadspin. “Tuskegee Airmen, Incorporated would be honored and pleased to work with the organization during and after the process should this name be adopted.”
One official in the organization told Deadspin that they were unaware of any contact between the Airmen organization and the NFL franchise, and another official refused to comment on the possibility of the communication between the two sides.
Ron Rivera, the team’s head coach and who grew up on military bases, has said he’d like the new name to be respectful of the Native American community and have a connection to the military.
On Monday, the Washington franchise officially retired its original team name that disparaged Native Americans. The organization has been criticized for decades due to its refusal to change the team’s moniker from a racial slur.
In wake of the tragic killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, many around the nation have rallied to eliminate oppressive monuments and symbols that empower racism or discrimination.
More than 80 investors sent letters to business partners of the D.C. franchise, asking them to no longer do business with the team. Some of the most notable companies were Nike, PepsiCo, and FedEx, which pays $7.6 million per year to have its name on the team’s Landover, Md. stadium.
On July 2, FedEx told Deadspin in a statement that the company had asked the Washington team to change its name.
“We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name,” FedEx said in its statement.
Over the years, Washington owner Dan Snyder has vehemently rejected calls for a name change, telling USA Today back in 2013 that he would “NEVER” change the name.
Seven years later, Snyder and the Washington organization are singing a completely different tune.
Some other notable name options for the team include Warriors, Generals, Red Wolves, War Hogs, Presidents, Lincolns and Senators. However, according to BetOnline, Redtails is currently a 3/1 favorite.
Rick Sinkfield, a public relations officer for Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated, told Deadspin that the organization is not “pushing” the Washington franchise to change its name to the Red Tails but that his organization would be there to help guide and offer support if that is the way the team chooses to go.
Washington adopting the name of a historic group of Black heroes could become controversial for many around the country, especially after the organization’s racist past. Washington’s first owner George Preston Marshall was a known racist and the last owner to integrate his NFL team. Marshall’s name has recently been removed from the Ring of Fame at FedEx Field and his statue was taken down from outside RFK Stadium, the franchise’s old home. But, according to Sinkfield, the name would offer a channel to spread awareness about the admirable contributions of the Tuskegee Airmen.
“We wouldn’t be driving them to any decision one way or the other,” said Sinkfield. “Anything we can do to highlight the name of Tuskegee Airmen and let people know that they are an honorable group and that they fought for our country that’s the main thing.“