FedEx Corp., which is both a team sponsor and the naming-rights partner to its stadium, said Thursday in a statement that it has asked the team to make the change. Redskins is considered by many to be derogatory and discriminatory against Native Americans.
“We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name,“ the company said.
The ties between the two companies are deep. FedEx founder, CEO and chairman Frederick Smith is a minority owner in the team. The $205 million naming-rights deal dates back to 1998 and runs through 2025, and FedEx is one of four sponsors with prominent placement on the team’s website, featured alongside Anheuser-Busch InBev, Bank of America and PepsiCo.
A representative for the team didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The Redskins name, used since 1933, has been controversial for decades, and majority owner Dan Snyder has said multiple times that he will never change it. The many public fights over the name include recent trademark dispute in which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office moved to cancel the team’s registrations associated with the name. An appeals court later vacated the decision.
The criticism has grown in recent weeks, an offshoot of the wider conversation happening nationwide about racial inequality. Last month 87 investment firms, shareholders in FedEx, PepsiCo. and NFL apparel sponsor Nike, wrote letters to all three companies asking them to terminate their business relationship with the team unless the name is changed. While FedEx is the first of those three to speak publicly, the company did not specify if there would be any ramifications for the team if the name stays.
It may also affect the team’s long-term future. Washington D.C. politicians said this week that the team would not be welcome to move back to the district unless the name is changed. The team has been exploring its stadium options, including the potential of building on the site of its former home on the D.C. waterfront.
The Redskins are worth $3.4 billion, the NFL’s seventh most valuable franchise, according to Forbes. That said, the brand might not be worth as much as many think, according to a trifecta of brand experts.