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Stadium sponsors FedEx ask Washington Redskins to change controversial name

FedEx paid $205m for the naming rights to Washington's stadium in 1999 in a deal that runs until 2025

A general view of FedExField in Landover, Maryland
Image: A general view of FedExField in Landover, Maryland

FedEx, who holds the naming rights to the Washington Redskins' stadium, has made a request to the team to change its controversial nickname.

FedEx has been the title sponsor of the Redskins' home stadium, FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland since 1999, the year owner when Daniel Snyder purchased the team. The current naming rights deal between the two parties runs until 2025.

In a statement, FedEx said: "We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name."

The move by FedEx comes after the Memphis-based delivery giant was lobbied, along with Nike and PepsiCo, by a group of investment firms and shareholders to end their sponsorship agreements with the Washington Redskins unless the team changes its name, according to a report by Adweek on Wednesday.

In a separate move Nike appear to have withdrawn all references to the Washington Redskins from their online store, although the sportswear company has yet to comment.

The Redskins name has survived multiple challenges over the years, with many Native American groups labelling the name racist.

The latest move came in the form of letters sent Friday to the three companies, per Adweek. The request reportedly was backed by 87 firms, headed by First Peoples Worldwide, Oneida Nation Trust Enrollment Committee, Trillium Asset Management, Boston Trust Walden, Mercy Investment Services and First Affirmative Financial Network.

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First Peoples Worldwide director Carla Fredericks told Adweek, "This is a broader movement now that's happening that Indigenous peoples are part of.

"Indigenous peoples were sort of left out of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s in many respects, because our conditions were so dire on reservations and our ability to engage publicly was very limited because of that. With social media now, obviously everything is very different."

Redskins owner Snyder has previously said the team will not change the name as long as he is in charge.

NFL to play Black anthem before national anthem

Image: The US anthem is traditionally played before every NFL game

The move by Fedex comes on the same day the Associated Press reported NFL stadiums will have someone perform "Lift Every Voice and Sing" before the US national anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner" during Week 1, beginning with the regular-season opener between the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs on September 10. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is often referred to as the Black national anthem.

As part of commissioner Roger Goodell's vow to listen to and work with players in their fight for racial equality, the league is considering putting names of victims of police brutality on helmet decals or jersey patches.

Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the US anthem in 2016
Image: The US anthem has become a source of controversy since Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in protest at social injustice in 2016

Additional plans include the use of educational programs and storytelling about the victims and their families.

The NFL is considering asking fans to sign a waiver and wear masks, with uncertainty over whether supporters will be in attendance during the opening week or at all in the upcoming season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The league announced last month it is pledging $250m over 10 years to social justice initiatives, targeting what it calls systemic racism and supporting the battle against the ongoing and historic injustices faced by African Americans.

Following the nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, Goodell denounced racism in a video after leading players, including Patrick Mahomes, posted a video seeking NFL action.

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