Nike has not made any statement. Not yet anyway. But Thursday night on Nike.com‘s NFL page there are links to pages for outfitting 31 of the league’s teams – everyone except the Washington Redskins. The alphabetical list goes from the Arizona Cardinals to the Tennessee Titans.
Typing “Redskins” in the site’s search bar doesn’t pay off either. Only a page that has
âWe couldn’t find anything for ‘red skin’. These popular articles might interest you “with links to sneakers.
Was it a bug? A mistake? A political declaration? It is not yet clear. But Nike is one of three sponsors of the Fortune 100 / Redskins companies, along with Pepsi and FedEx, which are the target of a coordinated effort. The aim is to use financial and political pressure to force the football team to change the racist mascot that has long been the subject of controversy.
Nike’s Twitter account has two anti-discrimination messages at the top. One celebrates LGBTQ athletes for Pride Month and the other is an anti-racist video (see below). There was nothing on the Redskins at 10:30 p.m. Thursday.
According to the Washington Post, FedEx, which paid $ 205 million in 1999 for a 27-year contract to name the home stadium for NFL teams in Landover, Maryland, ‘FedEx Field, issued the following one-sentence statement:
“We have communicated to the Washington team our request to change the team name.”
Owner Daniel Snyder has strongly opposed the name change, saying it honors Indigenous heritage, but faces the most aggressive opposition since he brought the team in in 1999. According to the Post :
The company’s request comes less than a week after a group of more than 85 investment firms and shareholders with $ 620 billion in assets called FedEx, Nike and Pepsi – Fortune 100 companies that do business with the team – to sever ties with the team unless Snyder changes his name.
So far, Pepsi, which has also released an anti-racism video, has not made any public statements.
Snyder, who is trying to get the team back inside the DC city limits, has seen his land acquisition attempts blocked by politicians who oppose the team’s name.
Snyder is holding on for the moment as the climate changes around him. After the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota in May, there was an increased wave of protests and demonstrations aimed at addressing issues of racial injustice. Symbols with historical links to racism have been disfigured and, in many cases, suppressed. The Confederate Flag has been banned during NASCAR events and the Mississippi State Flag has been withdrawn and will be replaced with one that does not include a Confederate Flag.
Naming mascots after Native American or Native American symbols has been a controversial issue for decades, from professional sports to high schools. The Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians have come under intense scrutiny, and several college programs have changed their mascots to something that doesn’t offend the native people of the country. Locally, UMass (from Redmen to Minutemen in the 1970s) and UMass-Lowell (from Chiefs to River Hawks) have adapted.
The Massachusetts Redskins were originally the Boston Braves when they shared Braves Field with the National League baseball team. When they moved to Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox in 1933, they retained the Native American theme and became the Redskins.
The Redskins moved the team to Washington DC in 1937.
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