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Famous American gridiron team bows to pressure for new name

The Washington Redskins have finally succumbed to pressure from Black Lives Matter and commercial sponsors to ditch offensive nickname.


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The growing momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement is changing a great many things — not least of all, names.

Among the more surprising to Americans is the decision by the Washington Redskins gridiron football team to change its nickname because of its reference to Native Americans,which is seen by many as offensive.

Team owner finally comes round to the idea of a new name

The move, until a week or so go, was unexpected given the longtime insistence of team owner Dan Snyder that the Redskins 87-year-old name would stay, no matter what.

Snyder, a multi-billionaire businessman, has consistently vowed that the historic name, which came with the team when it moved from the city of Boston to Washington in the 1930s, would remain unchanged.

But, as 14th-century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer once wrote, time and tide wait for no man. Or, in this case, wealthy football team owner.

Press statement says nickname and logo are being retired

In a press statement issued on Monday 13 July, the team said that, following a review which began on 3 July, “we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review”.

It continued: “Dan Snyder and Coach Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition-rich franchise.”

In truth, the team has been under pressure for many years over the controversial name that harks back to early US colonisation history when Native Americans, the so-called “Red Indians” were frequently referred to as “redskins”.

Pressure for a name change came from all sides

The rising tide of the Black Lives Matter social-change movement gave the process the kick-in-the-posterior impetus that it needed.

Pressure from the National Football League (NFL) itself, which clearly saw big trouble ahead if Snyder stuck to his guns over keeping the name, also helped. So did huge pressure from commercial sponsors, who were clearly not in the mood to take “no” for an answer.

Major team sponsors Nike, Pepsi, Fedex and Bank of America have all been exerting strong pressure. Big retail outlets such as Amazon, Walmart, Nike and Target have stopped selling team merchandise on their websites.

Sports broadcaster ESPN announced it would no longer use the team logo, which depicts a Native American man.

A matter of principle or a combination of multiple pressures?

Maybe it was a matter of principle; perhaps the likelihood of a big hit to pocket. Or the prospect of ongoing vigorous protest action and the team forever being cast as a sporting pariah that caused the shift. Likely it was a combination of all of the above.

But that matters not, because the dye is now cast and the Washington Redskins will morph into something more acceptable to a broader spectrum of Americans.

It may not be immediate, however, as the new gridiron season only starts in September. Names apparently being touted include the Washington Senators, Washington Warriors and Washington Red Tails.

The latter would be a nod to the nickname of a famous group of Black American airmen who served with distinction during World War Two.

Also read: Former SA cricketers criticise Lungi Ngidi’s Black Lives Matter comments