The Washington Redskins‘ nickname has been mired in controversy for decades.
Former team owner Jack Kent Cooke said in 1988: “There is not a single, solitary jot, tittle, whit chance in the world,” that the Redskins change their nickname. “I like the name and it’s not a derogatory name.”
A few years later, protesters picketed against the nickname at the Super Bowl following the 1991 season.
The issue faded in both instances, but every so often, it comes up again. The arc is similar each time: An initial wave of support for a name change, the Redskins holding firm, and finally, waning attention to the issue.
Then came George Floyd’s death on May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police. The protests that followed led to monuments being felled, the Mississippi state flag’s retirement and countless other changes throughout the nation.
Now Washington’s NFL team might become part of that change. It put out a statement Friday saying it was going to “undergo a thorough review of the team name.” It’s the first time under Dan Snyder, who has owned the team since 1999, the franchise has gone to this extent.
Here’s a look at some of the challenges to the Redskins’ nickname over Snyder’s tenure:
Aug. 11, 2006: Suit challenges Redskins trademark
Amanda Blackhorse became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that challenged the trademark of Washington’s nickname, saying it disparaged Native Americans. It was the second time Blackhorse was part of a suit that challenged a trademark that protected the Redskins’ name. The first one, decided in 2005, was unsuccessful.
May 9, 2013: ‘Put it in all caps’
Snyder’s strongest comment on the name happened during the 2013 offseason as focus returned to the topic, perhaps spurred by more winning. Washington was coming off a 10-6 season under rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
During an interview with USA Today, Snyder said, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
Sept. 15, 2013: Protests lasted the season
The Oneida Indian Nation kicked off a season-long protest campaign when Washington played at the Green Bay Packers. The group protested at every road game that season. Perhaps the biggest one occurred in Minnesota before a game vs. the Vikings when hundreds of protesters marched the streets to the stadium.
Several days before the Packers game, Brandon Stevens, an Oneida Nation official, told the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel: “The warrior image is not the image we want to be portrayed.”
Oct. 5, 2013: President Obama weighs in
President Barack Obama stopped short of saying the name should be changed. But he was the latest politician to discuss the matter.
He told The Associated Press: “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”
Obama also said: “I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things. I don’t want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team and rightly so.”
Oct. 10, 2013: Snyder’s letter to fans
Five days later, as pressure mounted on the Redskins, and more protests took place, Snyder wrote to the fan base.
In the letter, which represented his most extensive comments on the controversy, Snyder defended the name by saying: “Our franchise has a great history, tradition and legacy representing our proud alumni and literally tens of millions of loyal fans worldwide. We are proud of our team and the passion of our loyal fans. Our fans sing ‘Hail to the Redskins’ in celebration at every Redskins game. They speak proudly of ‘Redskins Nation’ in honor of a sports team they love.”
Snyder also expanded on what the term “Redskins” means to him: “When I consider the Washington Redskins name, I think of what it stands for. I think of the Washington Redskins traditions and pride I want to share with my three children, just as my father shared with me — and just as you have shared with your family and friends.”
May 22, 2014: 50 Senators sign a letter protesting the name
Fifty senators, all Democrats, signed a letter sent to the NFL saying Washington should change its nickname.
The letter stated: “The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur. We urge the NFL to formally support a name change for the Washington football team. … We urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports.”
The NFL also issued a release to the New York Times defending the name.
“The intent of the team’s name has always been to present a strong, positive and respectful image,” the statement read. “The name is not used by the team or the NFL in any other context, though we respect those that view it differently.”
June 8, 2014: Court rules against Redskins
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled six trademarks held by the Redskins, calling the nickname “disparaging to Native Americans.” It cited a federal law that prevented trademark protection in cases in which the language was offensive or disparaging.
The Redskins appealed the decision.
May 19, 2016: Washington Post poll says 90% of Native Americans not offended
In 2004, the Annenberg Public Policy Center released a poll that said nine out of 10 Native Americans were not bothered by the name. A Washington Post poll 12 years later found similar results.
The Post found that 90% of 504 respondents who identify as Native American were not offended by the name. Seven of 10 did not feel it was disrespectful and eight of 10 said they would not be offended if a non-Native American called them by that name.
June 19, 2017: Supreme Court rules in favor of Washington
The Redskins won a victory when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the law the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office used to prevent the team from registering trademarks using the word “Redskins” was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court stated it was “far-fetched to suggest that the content of a registered mark is government speech, especially given the fact that if trademarks become government speech when they are registered, the Federal Government is babbling prodigiously and incoherently.”
The court cited a case involving an Asian band named The Slants, ruling the name did not violate the First Amendment’s free-speech clause because “Contrary to the Government’s contention, trademarks are private, not government speech.”
May 25, 2020: George Floyd dies
While George Floyd’s death in police custody happened in Minnesota, it set off a chain of events that impacted Washington and beyond. Thousands of people flocked to the streets in cities across the country, protesting police brutality and racism. The country’s focus shifted from the coronavirus pandemic to race relations.
Statues were toppled in many cities and towns over the next month — including that of Washington’s first owner, George Preston Marshall, outside RFK Stadium. The Redskins also removed Marshall’s name from their Ring of Fame. NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from racetracks.
The protests led to another opening for those who opposed the team name, and they mobilized.
July 1, 2020 : Letter to sponsors
On Wednesday, Adweek reported that 87 investors and shareholders, worth a combined $620 billion, sent a letter the previous week to three sponsors — FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo — urging them to support a name change. In the past, groups had protested outside stadiums and tried to change the name through the courts. But this represented a targeted push directed at sponsors.
On the same day Adweek’s story appeared, the Washington Post quoted multiple officials in Washington, D.C., saying the team would not be able to move back to the city unless it changed their name. The Redskins want to build a new stadium after their lease on the land in Landover, Maryland, expires after the 2027 season. They have considered the site where RFK Stadium, their former home, still stands. But because it’s on federal land, the opinions of politicians matter.
“I call on Dan Snyder once again to face that reality, since he does still desperately want to be in the nation’s capital,” Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives, told the Post. “He has got a problem he can’t get around — and he particularly can’t get around it today, after the George Floyd killing.”
July 2, 2020: FedEx statement
One person who knows Snyder well called FedEx CEO Frederick Smith, who owns 10% of the team. The person said Snyder idolized Smith. That’s why it mattered when FedEx released a statement Thursday that read, “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.” Another person who knows Snyder well said he had to have felt “betrayed” by such a statement.
In 1998 — the year before Snyder bought the Redskins — FedEx struck a $205 million, 27-year deal for naming rights to the stadium. In 2014, the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin asked FedEx shareholders to reconsider the naming rights agreement. But shareholders voted to continue the relationship, which ends in 2025. FedEx has not stated if it would sever ties now, but no sponsor has a stronger direct tie to the organization. The statement, multiple people said, was a game-changer.
Nike also released a statement, saying: “We have been talking to the NFL and sharing our concerns regarding the name of the Washington team. We are pleased to see the team taking a first step towards change.”
When searching for Redskins gear on Nike’s website, this is what comes up: “We could not find anything for ‘Redskins.’”
PepsiCo has not released a statement.
July 3, 2020: Redskins statement
The Redskins released a statement late Friday morning. The first two paragraphs packed power:
“In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name. This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.
“Dan Snyder, Owner of the Washington Redskins, stated, ‘This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field.'”
One person who knows Snyder well predicted this was the final step toward eventual change, with the owner trying to see what traditions can be preserved. It’s the most serious the organization has been about the name change.
The team’s statement closed: “We believe this review can and will be conducted with the best interest of all in mind.”
Vikings place Anthony Barr on COVID-19 reserve list
All players on the list have either tested positive for the virus or come into contact with someone who is a known carrier.
Barr, who had 79 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season, is the eighth Vikings player to be on the list. Rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson and defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, who is in line to replace Everson Griffen this season, were also put on the COVID-19 list.
If a player tests positive for the coronavirus and displays symptoms, he would have to go into at least a 10-day quarantine period before being able to return to the field, per league protocol. Teams are not required to disclose the reason players are on the reserve list for COVID-19.
Earlier this week, on the mandatory reporting date for veteran players, the Vikings lost their biggest free agent acquisition for the season when defensive tackle Michael Pierce opted out for the 2020 season, citing respiratory concerns.
NFL training camp 2020 – Philip Rivers throws with Colts, rookies try on new uniforms
After 16 seasons of suiting up for the Chargers, quarterback Philip Rivers threw passes on Thursday in Indianapolis Colts gear — just one of many jolting new-team images from the 2020 NFL training camp. Rookies around the league tried on their new NFL uniforms, and at least one Buccaneers player is still in awe that he’s now teamed up with Tom Brady.
Here’s what you need to know from camps across the league:
Top news of the day
The Buffalo Bills sent their rookies home from the team’s facility Thursday as a response to five positive coronavirus tests this week, the team told ESPN in a statement. A league source told ESPN two players, including one rookie, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, and the team made the decision to conduct the day’s meetings virtually.
Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson released a statement on Thursday saying that outside linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. will be reporting to training camp soon. Beasley missed the first two days of camp and did not contact the team. The Titans placed Beasley on the reserve/did not report list on Tuesday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate, who was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus this offseason and has since recovered, called attending Tom Brady’s organized workouts a “calculated risk” and believes it won’t be much different than electing to play this season.
What our NFL Nation reporters heard today
Rookie Jalen Hurts spent part of his offseason in Houston working out with fellow dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson. Hurts’ communication with Carson Wentz was limited given the lack of a traditional spring schedule, he said, but he is eager to link up with him now that facilities are opening back up. “It was great to sit in the [virtual] meetings and just hear him talk, see how he sees the game,” Hurts said of Wentz. “I just want to continue to learn and listen to those things and just soak it all in.” — Tim McManus
Rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs did not have an offseason program to prepare for Dallas Cowboys‘ training camp, but he did have NFL experience help him in Miami, working out with his brother, Stefon, the Buffalo Bills receiver. The younger Diggs said he won most of the one-on-one battles. “When I was in high school, we trained together every day, so it felt good to get back to training with him,” Trevon said. “He knows what it takes to get there. I just followed his lead and competed with him every day.” — Todd Archer
The Carolina Panthers added another $1.5 million in dead money to their already league-leading $41.2 million total by releasing kicker Graham Gano. But it was an expected move, with Gano scheduled to count for $4,337,500 against the 2020 salary cap and more than $5.2 million against the 2021 cap. Carolina cleared $2.8 million in cap space by moving on. Gano’s replacement, Joey Slye, is scheduled to count $675,000 against this year’s cap, so the investment at that position is minimal. Don’t be surprised if Carolina brings in another kicker to push Slye. But moving on from Gano, who spent last season on IR, needed to happen with so many needs at other positions. — David Newton
— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) July 30, 2020
heck yeah pic.twitter.com/rn6aNk0YGL
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) July 30, 2020
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) July 30, 2020
1️⃣7️⃣ ➕ 7️⃣ pic.twitter.com/Ax4UfiTiM1
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) July 30, 2020
😎 F R E S H 😎
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) July 30, 2020
Out here grinding 💪
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) July 30, 2020
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) July 30, 2020
We’ve missed having these guys around 😌 pic.twitter.com/AAwqE2kwtg
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) July 30, 2020
𝙁𝙞𝙧𝙨𝙩 𝙇𝙤𝙤𝙠 at the rookies in action 👀 pic.twitter.com/Ti73ufDgIA
— New York Giants (@Giants) July 30, 2020
Back to work with one goal in mind. pic.twitter.com/mZmiYKxZvW
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) July 30, 2020
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) July 30, 2020
Pro Bowl season?
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) July 30, 2020
Full speed ahead. pic.twitter.com/YLtmzIn6ZE
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) July 30, 2020
Quotes of the day
“It’s gotta be Super Bowl or bust, in all honesty. That’s it. There’s not really anything past that. It’s Super Bowl or bust. If we don’t get to the big dance, it’s a failure of a season. That’s it.”
Terron Armstead, Saints OT, on New Orleans’ 2020 aspirations
“The first time he texted me, I had to get double confirmation from other people that it was actually Brady. He said, ‘Hey this is Tom. Give me a FaceTime when you can.’ So I had to reach out to Chris [Godwin] and Mike [Evans] and be like, ‘Hey. Is this Tom?’ Cause I didn’t want to be calling some random dude thinking it was Tom Brady.”
Cameron Brate, Buccaneers TE, on teaming up with Tom Brady
“I love him. He’s a great leader, a great team guy — somebody that I can lean on for anything.”
Henry Ruggs III, Raiders WR, on playing with Derek Carr
Bills rookies sent home after positive coronavirus tests
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills sent their rookies home from the team’s facility Thursday as a response to five positive coronavirus tests this week, the team told ESPN in a statement.
A league source told ESPN two players, including one rookie, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and the team made the decision to conduct the day’s meetings virtually.
The news was first reported by NFL Network.
Under the NFL’s training camp mandate, players must register three negative tests in a five-day span in order to enter the facility. Although teams are not required to shut down their facility for a positive test, the Bills chose to minimize risk by sending players home for the day.
“As we were informed by medical experts as training camp opened, we expected to have positive tests for COVID,” the team said in a statement to ESPN. “With 5 since the beginning of the testing period last Tuesday, we decided to take a disciplined, proactive and preventative approach to hopefully eliminate additional cases within our team.”
The Bills’ rookies first reported on July 21 to begin testing. The rookie who tested positive Thursday did so after registering three negative tests, a league source said.
A league source said the aforementioned rookie is asymptomatic; a player who tests positive can be tested again after five days if he remains asymptomatic during that span.
Undrafted rookie cornerback Ike Brown was the first Bills player to be placed on the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, followed by defensive tackle Vincent Taylor and wide receiver Duke Williams on Wednesday.
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