Nike Pulls All Redskins Merch, Which Might Actually Cause the Franchise to Change the Name
For years, fans and non-fans alike have been calling for the Washington Redskins to change their name, citing its racially insensitive nature akin to the Cleveland Indians and their Chief Wahoo logo or the University of Illinois mascot. But, despite hedging its bets and trademarking a few alternatives, Washington team ownership hasn’t shown any intention to give in to the public’s demands.
But now, a few business entities close to the Redskins have taken measures that could affect the financial viability of the team as a brand if it doesn't change the name, which could make owner Dan Snyder reflect on his choices.
First it was FedEx, which publicly released a statement calling on the team to change its name. For those who don’t follow closely, FedEx currently owns the naming rights for the stadium Washington plays in, so it’s a major source of money for the franchise.
FedEx, which has naming rights to the Redskins’ stadium, released the following statement:
“We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.” https://t.co/LyqxggDyq9
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 2, 2020
Following that, Nike reportedly pulled all of its Redskins merchandise this past week, issuing another blow to the team by depriving it of a major licensed merchandise stream. Nike has a contract with the NFL as its official uniform and sideline apparel merchandiser through 2028, so this wouldn’t be a problem that Snyder could just wait out.
Search for "Redskins" on https://t.co/nXg7vuP8jt, all official team gear has been removed from the store. FedEx released a statement indicating that it had asked "the team in Washington" to change its name. Continue to take notes @EdmontonEsks https://t.co/e4i0FyKta3
— Mumilaaq Qaqqaq (@MumilaaqQaqqaq) July 3, 2020
It came out last week that a reported 87 shareholders and investment firms asked Nike and FedEx, along with other big-name brand partners like Pepsi, to stop doing business with the franchise until ownership changes the team’s name.
That might just have been the straw that broke Snyder’s back, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter (arguably the most connected and reliable football reporter in the game) tweeted a statement from the Redskins that the franchise was “reviewing” its name. And while that alone might not sound like a big step, he pointed out that this doesn’t happen unless there’s a change coming.
And here it is: the Redskins are undergoing a thorough review of the team’s name.
And let’s be clear: There’s no review if there’s no change coming.
Redskins on way out. pic.twitter.com/ZrS3cCvhMg
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 3, 2020
What does this mean for the branded merchandise side of things? A few things, probably.
For one thing, just like the polarizing reputation of Chief Wahoo, there will be diehards who stubbornly cling to the Redskins identity. For another, all Redskins apparel and merchandise instantly becomes retro and a collector’s item if and when the new franchise identity is unveiled.
Once that happens, it’s going to be pretty much fair game for merchandisers to appeal to those aforementioned diehards. You might remember that in 2016 the team appealed to the Supreme Court to retain six canceled "Redskins" trademarks.
So, maybe once the team debuts its new identity as the Washington Warriors or RedHawks (or one of the other names that’s constantly thrown around as a replacement for the current name), there will be quite a market for Redskins gear on the resale market, which the franchise will of course miss out on. But, the real concern for Snyder is the money coming from its corporate partners and its Nike merchandise revenue, so a rebrand seems to be in the team's best financial interest.