The Washington NFL franchise has announced it will drop the “Redskins” name and Indian head logo immediately – bowing to decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans.
A new name must still be selected for one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it’s unclear how soon that will happen.
But for now, arguably the most polarizing name in North American professional sports is gone at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the US.
The move came less than two weeks after owner Dan Snyder, a boyhood fan of the team who once declared he would never get rid of the name, launched a “thorough review” amid pressure from sponsors.
FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and Bank of America all lined up against the name, which was given to the franchise in 1933 when the team was still based in Boston.
The team said it is “retiring” the name and logo and that Snyder and coach Ron Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design.
Native American advocates and experts have long criticized the name they call a “dictionary-defined racial slur.”
Over a dozen Native leaders and organizations wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week demanding an immediate end to Washington’s use of the name.
Goodell, who has fielded questions on the topic for years, said he supported the review.
Protests against the name predate Snyder buying the team in 1999, and, until now, he had shown no willingness to consider a change.
Strong words from sponsors – including a company run by a minority stakeholder of the team – changed the equation.
The move comes as a conversation continues surrounding racism in sports names and logos.
Here on Vancouver Island, the Saanich Junior B Hockey club decide to take the lead on this issue before cries from the public.
The formerly known Saanich Braves announced they would be changing their name and logo last week.
Recently, other professional sports organizations have experienced backlash for their names as well, including the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos and the MLB’s Cleveland Indians.
Several teams across all levels of sports are doing a further assessment and considering action, however, the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks is one club that has indicated it will not change their name.
With files to Canadian Press.