The National Football League franchise today said it would be “retiring” the Redskins logo and nickname, which is widely considered a racial slur. It was a complete about-face for Snyder, who once vowed never to change the nickname that has been in use since 1933.
The announcement comes about 10 days after the franchise said it would conduct a “thorough review” of the moniker in the wake of public protests over systemic racism that followed the killing of George Floyd by a police officer.
Scott Becher, a longtime sports and entertainment marketing executive, said the climate had made this moment an inflection point for Snyder, the franchise and its relationship with future business partners.
“It’s a great first step. Keep in mind, however, that brands are built on consistency,” Becher said. “The real value for Snyder and the team will be if this is the beginning of many moves to help restore appeal for sponsors and partners.”
FedEx wasn’t the only team sponsor that pressed for change. Nike Inc. and PepsiCo did, too. Investors had asked companies to stop doing business with the team until it agreed to rebrand.
Snyder’s change of heart also had to do with his desire for a new stadium, the person said. It became apparent that a name change was a prerequisite for any chance of building a new facility on the site where RFK Stadium currently sits in Washington, D.C. The team’s current stadium, FedEx Field, is located in Landover, Md.
While the sponsor pressure didn’t prompt Snyder’s decision, the person said it did accelerate the process.
The team’s plan was to announce the change—and its new nickname—at the same time, perhaps in time for next season. The team didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
The club didn’t disclose a new nickname Monday, saying only that Snyder and coach Ron Rivera are working to develop something “that will enhance the standing of our proud tradition-rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years.’’
Syracuse University professor Rick Burton, whose resume includes a stint as the chief marketing officer of the U.S. Olympic and Paralymic Committee, said he expects Snyder to pick “Red Tails” as an homage to the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of black pilots that fought in World War II.
Moreover, Burton said that moniker would allow the franchise to keep its burgundy color scheme and, as in the current logo, utilize feathers in the design.
The change may also help the team’s coffers, Burton said, noting that a new name and logo would likely lead to increased merchandise sales.
Though the Redskins occupy the No. 7 U.S. media market, they aren’t among the NFL’s top sellers, according to a person familiar with NFL sales.
Recently, the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Las Vegas Raiders, who relocated from Oakland, Calif., and Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs have been among the league’s best-selling clubs. The NFL doesn’t disclose team-by-team sales.
“Was Snyder’s obstinate nature hurting him? Yes. The fact that he dug in his heels and said he’d never change the name cost him,’’ Burton said. “Now that he has come around he should be able to make more money.”