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THE Washington NFL franchise announced that it would immediately drop the “Redskins” name and “Indian head” logo today, bowing to decades of criticism from anti-racists.
It was unclear what branding will now be used by one of the oldest teams in the National Football League. But for now, the most polarising name in North American professional sports is gone — at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the US and around the world.
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.
As corporations increasingly fear backlash from the anti-racist movement, FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and Bank of America had all lined up against the name.
Native American advocates and experts have long criticised the team for going by a “dictionary-defined racial slur.”
Over a dozen Native leaders and organisations wrote to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last week demanding an immediate end to Washington’s use of the name.
Protests against the name pre-date Snyder buying the team in 1999, and, until now, he had shown no willingness to consider a change.
FedEx earlier this month became the first sponsor to announce it had asked the organisation to reconsider, particularly important because CEO Frederick Smith owns part of the team.
FedEx also paid $205 million (£163m) for the long-term naming rights to the team’s stadium in Landover, Maryland.
The lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027, and dropping the name keeps open various possibilities in Maryland, Virginia and Washington for the team’s new stadium and headquarters.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has said the name was an “obstacle” to Snyder building on the city’s old Robert F Kennedy Memorial Stadium site, which is believed to be his preference.
Washington recently started cutting ties with racist founder George Preston Marshall, removing his name from the stadium walls and renaming the its lower bowl for the team’s first black player, late Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell.
Marshall, who renamed the Boston Braves the Redskins in 1933 and moved it to DC four years later, was a segregationist and the last NFL owner to racially integrate their team.
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