WASHINGTON – The Washington Redskins moved Friday toward what team owner Daniel Snyder once vowed was unthinkable: changing their controversial name in a bow to pressure from their largest corporate sponsors and the fierce winds of societal reckoning sweeping the country.
After years of resistance, the team said it was launching a thorough review of the name.
It did not share any details of the process, but two people familiar with discussions among Snyder, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other league officials that led to Friday's announcement said the review is expected to result in a new nickname and mascot.
"You know where this leads," one of the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They're working on that process [of changing the name].
"It will end with a new name. Dan has been listening to different people over the last number of weeks."
A second person with knowledge of the situation said: "It's not a matter of if the name changes but when."
The team said the review "formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks."
It did not announce a timeline for the review.
Goodell expressed the league's support for the team's review.
League officials have said in recent days that any change would be a club decision, not one originating from the league office, but according to one person familiar with the league's inner workings, owners of other NFL teams had become increasingly concerned about Snyder's operation of the team and his long-standing refusal to reconsider the name.
The Redskins' announcement and sudden about-face on an issue that has long roiled the franchise comes on the heels of a broader nationwide discussion on race and a reckoning with the country's history.
Since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody in late May, monuments have fallen, Confederate flags have been barred and protests calling for sweeping change, largely focused on racial equity and police brutality, have taken place in cities nationwide.
While the Redskins' statement made no specific mention of a name change, the review will be seen leaguewide as a first step toward a move the organization, and Snyder, specifically has long resisted.
Snyder, who grew up a fan of the franchise before purchasing the team in 1999, has maintained the team name and mascot are a source of pride, honoring the heritage of Native Americans. He famously drew a line in the sand in a 2013 interview, saying, "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."
But there has been growing momentum for a change in recent weeks. FedEx, a longtime sponsor and naming-rights holder of the team's stadium, issued a one sentence statement Thursday calling for a change. Fred Smith, the FedEx chief executive, is a minority owner of the team.
"We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name," the Memphis-based company said.
Investors and shareholders have been applying pressure on the team's corporate sponsors, and many welcomed the Redskins' announcement. Encouraging statements were issued from executives for PepsiCo and Bank of America.
Nike, another major sponsor, removed Redskins merchandise from its online store Thursday, and a spokesperson said the company has "been talking to the NFL and sharing our concerns regarding the name of the Washington team."
As major corporate backers of the team, FedEx, Nike, Bank of America and PepsiCo all tied their brands to that of the Redskins for years.
In their respective statements acknowledging support for a name change, none of the companies used the word "Redskins."
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., who has advocated for the name change for the past decade, hailed Friday's development as a tipping point in a long-running movement but said there's no need for any sort of review before instituting a change.
"It's a racial slur that one of the things that I think our country is reckoning with right now: Things that we swept under the rug and said were acceptable or said, 'We'll get around to fixing that later,' " McCollum said in a telephone interview.
"The American people don't want to wait any longer. They want a clear message that equality and justice are what we're striving for as a nation."