Washington NFL team hires law firm to review culture

FILE - In this Dec. 26, 2015, file photo, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder walks the sidelines during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, in Philadelphia. A new name must still be selected for the Washington Redskins football team, one of the oldest and most storied teams in the National Football League, and it was 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 U.S. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The most racist team name in major pro sports is dead. That’s a wonderful thing, just don’t thank Daniel Snyder.

Snyder, the owner of the formerly named Washington Redskins, had to be dragged kicking and screaming to change the team’s name.

In 2013, Snyder told USA Today Sports the franchise would “never” change its name.

“NEVER,” he said. “You can use caps.”

A majority of Native Americans considered the name racist and offensive for decades, and prominent Native American groups called for a name change many times over the years.

The team had been called the Redskins since 1933. Snyder, 55, has owned the team since 1999.

So just how was this stubborn billionaire forced to change the team name he said he would NEVER change? Money. Of course it’s about money.

Washington’s major corporate sponsors, including FedEx, Nike and Pepsi, demanded it. A letter signed by 87 investors and shareholders with a total worth of $620 billion was sent to those sponsors, requesting that they stop doing business with the NFL team unless it changed its name.

Money talks, especially to billionaires.

On July 2, FedEx made a statement saying it had told the team it wanted the name changed.

The ball got rolling on all of this in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25. It sparked not just protests in the streets, but a larger discussion about issues of social and racial equality.

So now Snyder has a social conscience? Nope.

It’s plain to anyone, no matter what your race, that the Redskins name was blatantly racist. But who Snyder should have been listening to all along was Native Americans. Except he didn’t care what they thought.

Native Americans from Arizona are included among those across the nation who have denounced the usage of the Redskins name and team logo.

“A lot of Native American people do not want to be looked at as a sidekick, a caricature or a stereotype,” Douglas Miles, an artist, activist and member of the Apache tribe, told Cronkite News. “This is all we’ve been given; it is all we have. Unfortunately, there’s this kind of ‘strain.’ We’ve just been conditioned to accept it. Even now, it’s still an uphill battle.”

Jonathan Nez, president of the Navajo Nation, released a statement Monday after the news that Washington had finally ended the usage of its Redskins name, calling it a “historic day for all indigenous peoples.”

“The NFL Washington-based team officially announced the retirement of the racist and disparaging ‘Redskins’ team name and logo,” he said. “This change did not come about willingly by the team’s owners, but by the mounting pressure and advocacy of Indigenous peoples such as Amanda Blackhorse, and many other warriors who fought long and hard for this change.”

Now comes the question of what to rename the team.

Some names have been thrown around, including Warriors. That’s a generic one, not to mention it’s already used by an NBA team. Red Tails is one also reported, which would honor the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of Black military fighter and bomber pilots who fought in WWII.

I like that idea, and Washington Red Tails rolls off the tongue nicely.

Most importantly, the old name is gone, and that’s something to celebrate in its own right.

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Brian Wright is the sports editor at PinalCentral. He can be reached at bwright@pinalcentral.com.

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