Though consumer research shows that most Americans have no problem whatever with the Washington NFL team's name, an increasingly vocal coalition of tribes, liberal politicians and politically correct fellow travelers is pushing owner Dan Snyder to change it. If they succeed, the rebrand they demand could easily cost over $15 million, Advertising Age reported September 24.
What's the problem?
Most Americans, "Native" or otherwise, see no problem with calling the Washington team the Redskins.
"A June Washington Post poll found that two-thirds of Washington-area fans opposed a name change," Ad Age reports. And "[i]n a national Associated Press-GfK poll, 4 out of 5 Americans were against such a change."
More recently, a September 19 YouGov research report noted
The latest YouGov research shows that when people were asked if they think the Washington Redskins should change thier [sic] name, the majority said no (61%). 17% of America[n]s said that they should change their name only if other teams like the Atlanta Braves and the Kansas City Chiefs did so too.
When asked whether or not the team name was offensive to Native Americans, the majority of both Republicans (89%), and Independents (73%) said no. Democrats (70%) were still solidly of the opinion that the name isn't offensive...
But apparently, what's fine for most Americans just isn't good enough for some folks who know better than the rest of us great unwashed.
On the warpath
In a September 11 radio interview, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "If one person is offended, then we have to listen."
More than one person (though not all that many more) are taking offense, and they're getting louder and shriller about it.
- "Their home newspaper the Washington Post has stopped called the team the Redskins. Instead, authors are using terms like 'the Washington team' and other euphemisms," YouGov reports, noting that "it is the first time that a major newspaper has stopped using their team name."
- Starting in August, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow started calling the team "the R-word" on air and accusing anyone anyone who dares utter "Redskins" of using "painfully racist" language.
- After decades of using the team's official name, websites Slate, Mother Jones and TNR – none of them exactly noted for their extensive football coverage – announced that they could no longer in clear conscience continue to do so.
- At more mainstream media, Sports Illustrated's Peter King and USA Today's Christine Brennan have vowed that the Dreaded R-Word will never cross their lips, or their keyboards, again.
- The Oneida Indian (not, interestingly, "Native American") Nation bought radio time and set up a website claiming that it's "simply wrong to use the offensive term 'Redskins' to sell anything, much less an NFL team."
- Others of their heritage have taken offense not at the use of the name, but at the fact that someone else is profiting from it without cutting them in. "A group of Native Americans have launched a trademark suit challenging the Redskins' ability to exclusively use or profit from the name," Ad Age writes.
- And ten Congress members, undistracted by such trivialities as the still-imploding economy, poison gas in Syria, terrorist mall attacks in Kenya and Iran's growing nuclear capability, wrote Snyder, Goodell and FedEx CEO Fred Smith (whose company sponsors FedEx Field, the Redskins' home stadium) to solve a major national crisis by changing the team's name.
$15+ million to change
According to Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor Associates, the firm that designed the Redskins' current logo in 2008, rebranding for the sake of political correctness would cost over $15 million.
Coming up with a new name and design would be the least of these expenses – only (only!) $500,000 to $1 million.
"The cheapest part is coming up with the creative," Adamson said. "The most expensive part is hoisting the new letters on top of the stadium."
That will run to at least $15 million. And that figure doesn't include the cost of putting a new name and logo on uniforms, programs, t-shirts, banners and other regalia, and signage at both Redskins Park HQ/training center in Ashburn, VA, and the popular new summer training camp in Richmond.
It's a small percentage of the franchise's estimated $1.7 billion value, but still, it's a lot to spend to mollify a very, very few self-righteous people with loud voices.
Circling the wagons
For years, owner Dan Snyder's been turning a deaf ear to cries of political correctness, and for now, at least, indications are that he'll continue to do so.
So, apparently, will stadium sponsor FedEx. "We understand that there is a difference of opinion on this issue," a spokeswoman told AdAge, but "...we believe that our sponsorship of FedEx Field continues to be in the best interests of FedEx and its stockholders."
"Dan Snyder, being Dan Snyder, might relish the chance to annoy his critics by refusing to change the name even [if] public opinion turns against it," conservative blogger Allahpundit posts, predicting that they'll handle the politically correct outbursts the way the Augusta National Golf Club handled the New York Times-inspired campaign to admit women. "They won’t bow to political correctness under intense pressure, but down the road, after everyone’s chosen sides between “Redskins” and “R-words” and the issue’s quieted down, they’ll change the name" – many years later and on their own terms.