Washington Redskins to drop controversial team name following review

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The Washington Redskins American football team has said it will retire its name, long criticised as racist.

In a statement, the team said it would “be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of a review” demanded by its sponsors.

Its major sponsors recently threatened to pull funding from the NFL team unless it considered renaming itself.

The Washington DC-based team has faced years of pressure over a name seen as offensive to Native Americans.

Team owner Dan Synder had been a boyhood fan of the team – which was named the Redskins in 1933 when it was still based in Boston – and had vowed to never change the moniker of the 87-year-old team.

But amid protests over police brutality and racism, major sponsors FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and Bank of America all called on Mr Snyder to consider finally changing the name.

Last week, Amazon, Walmart and Target, Nike and and other retail stores removed team merchandise from their websites. ESPN also said it would stop using the team logo, which depicts a Native American man.

The announcement does not immediately change the name of the team, and a new one must be chosen before the 2020 season begins in September. The team’s official website maintains the current team name, as does the team’s official Twitter handle.

Some names that have been suggested as replacements include the Washington Senators, the Washington Warriors and the Washington Red Tails.

The NFL team is not the first Washington DC sports franchise to change it name amid shifting cultural attitudes.

In 1995, the NBA’s Washington Bullets were renamed the Wizards after the team owner said he had become uncomfortable with the name’s violent overtones.

The Redskins moved to Washington DC in 1937 and was founded by businessman George Person Marshall, who believed in racial segregation.

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Image caption

Protesters picket a game in 2019

They were the last team to allow black players onto the team, and only did so after the government threatened to revoke the lease on their stadium in 1962.

Last month, a statue of Marshall was removed from the stadium’s grounds after it was vandalised. The stadium has also said they will remove his name from the Ring of Fame, a level of the stadium that highlights contributions made by certain individuals to the team’s history.

What is the reaction?

Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation Representative and founder of the Change the Mascot campaign, which advocated for the name change, praised Monday’s announcement.

“This is a good decision for the country – not just Native peoples – since it closes a painful chapter of denigration and disrespect toward Native Americans and other people of colour,” he said in a statement.

“Future generations of Native youth will no longer be subjected to this offensive and harmful slur every Sunday during football season.”

“About time,” tweeted New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland, one of the only Native American women in Congress.

“It shouldn’t take a huge social movement & pressure from corporate sponsors to do the right thing, but I’m glad this is happening,” she continued. “Huge thanks to everyone who made their voices heard.”

Activists say the Washington team name has long been the most offensive, amid other names that also invoke Native American stereotypes. The Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks and Kansas City Chiefs are also team names that some activists hope will change as the US undertakes a racial reckoning after the death of George Floyd in police custody.

The Cleveland Indians announced a review of their team name only hours after the Redskins did so earlier this month.

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