Well, after years of not happening at all, that happened fast: Washington NFL owner Dan Snyder is set to announce today that he’ll be ditching “Redskins” as the team name, effective … well, we’ll get to that in a second.
The interesting part here is what it took to change Dan Snyder’s mind: not years of complaints that it was offensive to Native Americans to use a racial slur as a nickname, but rather when the team’s corporate partners, including naming-rights owner FedEx, announced they would pull out of their sponsorship deals if the name weren’t changed. Which, sure, was the end result of the broader campaign to change the name — and the broader campaign for breaking down systemic racism in general — but it’s an important lesson that when you want your message heard, you need to pick a messenger who rich dudes will listen to.
So far the naming-rights revolution has been pretty one-sided: Team owners sign contracts with corporations to slap their names on buildings that in most cases taxpayers paid for and own, and everyone goes home happy. (Except the taxpayers. And sometimes the naming-rights sponsor.) This current Washington situation does, though, make clear one downside to making everyone say a corporate name when referring to your stadium and relying on that as a revenue stream: People have to associate your stadium with good things for that to be worth something, and genocide is experiencing a dip in popularity at the moment, so if you want to keep earning money, you may have to listen to what the people paying you money are demanding. It’s the same principle, really, as every boycott ever, going back to the one that helped end slavery.
The next task, then, is for Snyder to pick a new name, which he’s apparently already done — except that in the time he was refusing to consider a new name, he was so adamant about his position that he neglected to secure a backup plan:
Two people with knowledge of the team’s plans said Sunday that the preferred replacement name is tied up in a trademark battle, which is why the team couldn’t announce the new name Monday.
The presumed new name is either Redtails (after World War II’s Tuskegee Airmen) or Warriors (after the broader group of people who drop bombs on things), though that hasn’t stopped lots of Twitter jokes about how Snyder must want to call his team Lady A too. This would not be the first time that a team name was determined in part by not wanting to pay off a trademark squatter: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays reportedly got their name after owner Vince Naimoli balked at paying $35,000 for his preferred name of Tampa Bay Stingrays, which led to a name that everyone hated so much that they eventually became the Rays, which the team’s logo eventually retconned to be about the sun instead of a fish.
For the time being, then, the team will continue to be called the “Redskins,” and presumably FedEx will keep making naming-rights payments in good faith that eventually either Snyder will cough up the money for Washington Warriors or will pick a name that he can get for free. Look, here’s a whole list of ’em! I think I’m gonna go now and trademark the Washington Dooming Bearcats, just in case.