FedEx, a major sponsor of the Washington Redskins, is asking the NFL team to change its name in response to growing pressure from investors who oppose the name’s racist connotations.
“We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name,” FedEx told CNN Business in a statement.
The Redskins said on Friday the team “will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name.”
FedEx — which sponsors and has naming rights for the stadium the Washington team plays in — released its statement after more than 80 groups and shareholders that invest in the company sent a letter to FedEx CEO Frederick Smith calling on it to “terminate its business and public relationships” with the franchise because of the name.
Similar letters were also sent by investors to the CEOs of Nike, which makes Redskins uniforms and equipment, and Pepsi, its snack and beverage partner.
“We have been in conversations with the NFL and Washington management for a few weeks about this issue. We believe it is time for a change. We are pleased to see the steps the team announced today, and we look forward to continued partnership,” a PepsiCo spokesperson said in a statement Friday.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch, also a sponsor of the team, echoed that sentiment as well.
“As a partner and sponsor, we have encouraged the team to change the name and we welcome this announcement,” the banks said in a statement to CNN Business.
Nike also said it was “pleased” to see the team taking the first step toward change.
“We have been talking to the NFL and sharing our concerns regarding the name of the Washington team,” the company said in a statement on Friday.
In the letter to Smith, the investors, who said they represent more than $620 billion in assets, noted that the word “Redskins” remains a “de-humanizing word characterizing people by skin color and a racial slur with hateful connotations.”
“Virtually every major national American Indian organization has denounced use of Indian and Native related images, names and symbols disparaging or offending American Indian peoples, with over 2,000 academic institutions eliminating ‘Indian’ sports references,” they wrote.
“In light of the Black Lives Matter movement that has focused the world’s attention on centuries of systemic racism, we are witnessing a fresh outpouring of opposition to the team name,” the investors wrote. “Therefore, it is time for FedEx to meet the magnitude of this moment, to make their opposition to the racist team name clear, and to take tangible and meaningful steps to exert pressure on the team to cease using it.”
The letters to Nike and Pepsi echoed that language. In the letter to Nike CEO John Donahoe, for example, the investors acknowledged that Nike “has taken steps to be more transparent about its workforce diversity.” The investors also pointed out that Nike “helped keep alive the public conversation around systemic racism and police brutality” by launching an ad campaign featuring quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice while he was playing in the league.
“However, Nike continues to provide uniforms and equipment” to Washington’s NFL team, the investors said, adding that “this association with and facilitation of the racism inherent in the name and logo runs contrary to the very sentiments expressed by the company.”
As of Thursday night, it appeared that Nike-branded Redskins merchandise was unavailable on Nike’s online store. Merchandise representing every other NFL team was listed, though. Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
— Jill Martin, Cristina Alesci and Anneken Tappe contributed to this report.