After years of protests and controversy, the Washington Redskins, the professional football team in the U.S. capital, said Monday it is immediately dropping the use of its nickname that has been criticized for being racially offensive to Native Americans and will soon adopt a new nickname.
Team owner Dan Snyder had long vowed he would never change the name of the team he grew up cheering for. But less than two weeks after he launched what he described as a “thorough review" of the use of the name Redskins, the team said it is “retiring” the name.
Advocates for Native Americans have long decried the name as a "dictionary-defined racial slur."
But Snyder and his support for use of the name came under new scrutiny with the U.S. reckoning in recent weeks over racial and ethnic identity in the aftermath of nationwide protests against police abuse of minorities that followed the death of an African American man, George Floyd, while in police custody.
Snyder also faced pressure from key corporate financial supporters of his National Football League franchise. FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and Bank of America all lined up against the name, which has been used by the franchise since 1933 when the team was still based in Boston.
The team said it will soon announce a new name.
Many fans of the team have supported changing the name, but not all.
Mike Richman, a Redskins historian and author of "The Redskins Encyclopedia," said that "for most if not all of Redskins nation, this is a tough decision to stomach. We've only known the name Redskins as a pro football team and not as a disparaging term toward Native Americans."
But Richman added, "Those who say they'll no longer root for the team will get on board with a new name once the franchise becomes a perennial winner," which it has not been during the two decades Snyder has owned the team.