FedEx Increasingly Embroiled in Ongoing Controversy over “Redskins” Name
September 29, 2014: This morning, investors presented a shareholder floor proposal at FedEx Corporation’s (NYSE:FDX) annual meeting asking the company to “take the steps necessary to drop or distance ties to the team, logos and/or stadium sponsorship until the Washington D.C. Football Team franchise abandons its degrading name.” FedEx possesses the naming rights to the team’s stadium, FedExField, in Landover, MD through 2026.
Speaking directly to senior leadership and the board, Susan White, Trust Director of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin explained “The Washington D.C. franchise’s name, “Redskins,” is a dehumanizing word with hateful connotations for Native American peoples and others concerned about human rights. We consider the Washington team name a racial slur, tracing back to colonial times when bounties were paid on a sliding scale for the skins of Native men, women and children, and traded like animal hides. The term did not describe actions that honored Indian peoples then and it still represents racism and genocide today for Native peoples.”
The Oneida Trust of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin is the lead filer of the proposal, with Mashantucket (Western) Pequot Tribe Endowment Trust, Mercy Investment Services, and Calvert Bal-anced, Calvert Large Cap Core, Calvert Social Index, Calvert VP S&P 500 and Calvert VP SRI Portfolios serving as co-filers, along with support and assistance from Boston Common Asset Management, Wal-den Asset Management and Trillium Asset Management.
“FedEx’s board and management have an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to diversity, but each time a game is broadcast or the team name mentioned, the company is perceived as supporting disparaging and racist language, said Jonas D. Kron, Senior Vice President, Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Trillium Asset Management, LLC. “FedEx’s role as team sponsor will only attract more and more attention to its untenable position.”
Two hundred civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and every single national American Indian organization, have condemned the name. Even national voices as disparate as President Obama, U.S. Senator Harry Reid, and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer have weighed in against the team name. Sportswriters and newspapers have also chosen to stop the use of the name. For example, NBC’s Bob Costas of Sunday Night Football, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and USA Today’s Christine Brennan all publicly concluded the team name is a racial slur.
In May, 50 U.S. Senators sent letters to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging him to push for a name change as “The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur.” Federal legislation is being introduced to eliminate the NFL’s tax exempt status as it has not addressed the Washington team name issue.
FedEx has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership as a team sponsor and to examine its involvement in supporting racial stereotypes,” said Reed Montague, Sustainability Analyst at Calvert Investments. “Without clear disclosure on how the company plans to address the issue, it will continue to face heightened reputational risk.”
With its corporate name on FedExField, the company continues to be associated with the controversial team name. Newspapers and media outlets use FedEx in stories, articles and headlines related to the Washington team.
“The Washington team cannot continue to use a symbol that is racist and offensive to Native Americans and to others of us conscious of the hatred behind the naming of people by the perceived color of their skin. If FedEx truly believes that its name is ‘synonymous with integrity and reliability,’ and that its ‘reputation is an important strategic asset,’ FedEx must take steps to ‘protect and enhance it.’ If not, the FedEx Code of Business Conduct and Ethics is meaningless. Our 2014 shareholder proposal demonstrates clearly that ‘FedEx’ is associated with racial controversy. Furthermore, this is an issue of justice and compassion, not only toward Native Americans but toward all immigrant groups objectified by some sort of racial or nationality slur.” said Sister Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u., Mercy Investment Services, Inc.
“We encourage FedEx to fully appreciate the emotional violence that racist stereotypes do to Native youth, including the current disparaging name of the Washington D.C. NFL football organization,” said Steven Heim, Managing Director, Boston Common Asset Management, LLC. “We urge FedEx to end its financial ties until the racist name is changed or distance its association with such disparagement.”
For more information:
Jonas D. Kron, Trillium Asset Management, LLC firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-894-7551
Melinda Lovins, Calvert Investments, Inc., email@example.com, 301-657-7089
Sister Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u., Mercy Investment Services, Inc., firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-674-2542
Steven Heim, Boston Common Asset Management, LLC, email@example.com, 617-785-9527