FedEx asks Washington's NFL team to change the team's name

FedEx owns the naming rights to the Maryland field where the team plays, and its chief executive, Fred Smith, owns a minority stake in the team.
/ Source: NBC News

FedEx has asked the Washington NFL team to officially change its name, long condemned as an anti-Indigenous slur.

The shipping company has communicated to the team a request that it change its name, FedEx confirmed Thursday in a statement to NBC News. FedEx owns the naming rights to the Maryland field where the team plays, and its chief executive, Fred Smith, owns a minority stake in the team.

A Washington helmet sits on the field before a game between Washington and the New York Giants at FedExField on November 23, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)Patrick McDermott / Getty Images

FedEx's request comes a day after Adweek reported that 87 investment firms and shareholders worth $620 billion sent a letter urging FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo to stop doing business with the team until the name is changed.

In 2017, the Supreme Court struck down part of a law that bans offensive trademarks, which helped the team get the team's trademark back in 2018. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board had canceled the registration as offensive to American Indians.

As the country re-evaluates systemic racial inequalities and reignites conversations on racism, sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody, many have called for the NFL team's name to be left in the past.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said last month on Washington radio station WTEM that the name has been an obstacle in getting the city its own stadium.

"I think it's past time for the team to deal with what offends so many people," Bowser said. "And this is a great franchise with a great history that's beloved in Washington, and it deserves a name that reflects the affection that we've built for the team."

Critics have also said the team profits from the use of the slur, with a team valuation of $3.4 billion, according to Forbes.

NPR reported in 2013 on the history of the word "redskin" and how it transformed into a derogatory reference for Native Americans. Initially, Native Americans used the word as a self-identifier during negotiations with the French, but it morphed into a slur as non-Indigenous colonizers began to use it in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Dan Snyder, the team's majority owner, told USA Today in 2013 that he would "never change the name."

"It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps," he said.

The team did not immediately respond to a phone and email request for comment.