The debate over the divisive Washington Redskins nickname restarted over the weekend as sponsors put pressure on the NFL franchise to change their mascot.
Another team with a nickname that has come under fire over the years, MLB’s Cleveland Indians, also issued a statement declaring they will “determine the best path forward with regard to (their) team name.”
The renewed push to change the nicknames comes in the wake of month-long racial equality protests and an ongoing national reckoning with systemic racism.
President Donald Trump joined the fray by voicing his concern with the potential nickname change on Monday via Twitter. “They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct,” Trump tweeted.
Regardless of the President’s concerns, the appetite for keeping either nickname seems to have lessened for sponsors and fans.
Washington Feels Pressure To Change From Redskins
Washington owner Daniel Snyder may be forced to agree to a new nickname due to the pressure from corporate America. Nike, Target, and Walmart removed all Washington apparel from their websites over the holiday weekend. And FedEx, chief sponsor of the Washington franchise and namesake of their home, FedEx Field, reportedly asked Snyder to consider changing the name.
NFL officials admit that changing the nickname of a franchise is not typically done quickly. A sports branding consultant told the Washington Post on Monday, “I guess they could do it [in about two months] if they had to, but generally it’s a big process. I would take time and launch it after the 2020 season. I don’t even know if you could physically do all that work in time.”
New Washington Nickname
With the high probability that Washington changes their nickname many are throwing fans are throwing out possibilities.
Red Tails seems to be the likely favorite. By switching to Red Tails, officials would be paying homage to military history and the African-American community in D.C. The Red Tails, otherwise known as the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, were an all-Black pilot group.
Washington’s starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins gave his support to the Red Tails nickname on Twitter. The 23-year old signal-caller tweeted, “I like the redtails.”
Other suggestions lean toward Washington D.C.-inspired nicknames such as the Lincolns, the Americans, and the Memorials.
Cleveland Signals Move Away from Indians’ Nickname
Cleveland officials announced they were moving away from the Chief Wahoo mascot in early 2018. The franchise officially replaced the caricature of a Native American from uniforms and caps before the 2019 season. But Indians CEO Paul Dolan declined to change the team’s nickname from Indians at that time.
Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor urged team officials to change the team’s nickname. “If changing the name brings more love and more peace to society, I’m open to listening to the change of names,” Lindor told the press at Cleveland’s summer camp.
New Cleveland Nickname
History inspired many of the choices for replacement nicknames for Cleveland. Spiders was the city’s professional baseball team back in 1889. The runner-up nickname, the Naps, was the original team name of the 1911 club. But after Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie left the team in 1914, club officials changed to Indians.
Although public opinion seems to lie with the club choosing either Spiders or Naps, other possible nicknames touch on the city’s current culture. Since the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is located in Cleveland, Rocks and Rockers have also been thrown out.
While both teams most likely play the 2020 season under their current nicknames, it’s smart money to believe that new names will be in place at the start of the 2021 campaign.