This past year marked a major turning point in debate over the National Football League’s Washington D.C. franchise team name – “Redskins”. FedEx has naming rights to team’s stadium – FedExField.
“Redskins” remains a dehumanizing word characterizing people by skin color and is a racial slur with hateful and offensive connotations.
Proponents believe FedEx should drop or distance ties to the team, logos and/or stadium sponsorship until the franchise abandons its degrading name.
Virtually every major national American Indian organization has publicly denounced use of Indian – and Native – related images, names and symbols disparaging or offending American Indian peoples, with over 2,000 schools, colleges and universities eliminating “Indian” sports references. The NCAA banned “hostile or abusive” American Indian mascots during postseason tournaments.
Companies, including Anheuser-Busch, Philip Morris, Coca-Cola, Denny’s, and Miller Brewing, ceased association with names and symbols disparaging Native peoples.
We believe FedEx may suffer reputational harm from this controversy.
In the past 18 months we have seen the following:
• 200 civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, condemn the name.
• 100 organizations petitioned FedEx requesting review of its relationship with the team.
• Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy ridiculed the name: “So, Washington football fans, how’s that offensive team name and demeaning sports mascot working out? Whooping and hollering as RGIII goes on a ‘Redskins’ warpath only to leave a trail of tears when his wounded knee gets buried at FedEx Field.”
• Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer criticized the team name.
• Ten Congressional members sent letters urging a name change to team owner Dan Snyder, NFL Commissioner Goodell, and FedEx, as a team sponsor.
• U.S. Senator Cantwell and U.S. Representative Cole sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Goodell, threatening the NFL’s non-profit status over this issue.
• The Oneida Nation of New York launched a national media campaign against the name.
• Mother Jones published a story “Are Coke and FedEx Worried About Sponsoring the Redskins?”
• President Obama said he would consider a name change if he owned the team.
• NBC’s Bob Costas devoted a Sunday Night Football halftime commentary to the issue, concluding the name is “a slur.”
• Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and USA Today’s Christine Brennan announced they will no longer use the name.
• The Washington D.C.’s City Council unanimously approved a resolution condemning the name.
• Two Maryland State Delegates proposed a resolution urging a name change. One said, “the Redskins play at FedEx Field in Prince George’s County, so there’s a need for Maryland lawmakers to take a formal stand against the name.”
Shareholders request the Board prepare a report by September 1, 2014, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, addressing how FedEx can better respond to reputational damage from its association with the Washington D.C. NFL franchise team name controversy, including a discussion of how it is overseeing senior management’s handling of the controversy and FedEx’s efforts to distance or disassociate itself from the franchise and/or team name.