The name of one of the nation’s most successful delivery companies is attached to the building where the Washington NFL team plays. But its CEO refuses to say whether he believes the name of the franchise should change.
Initially, FedEx CEO Fred Smith tried to avoid the question of whether the team should change its name, in an appearance on CNBC.
“Well first of all, let me answer that question from the standpoint of FedEx, which sponsors FedEx Field,” Smith said, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. “We have a long-standing contract with Washington Football Inc. The Redskins play at FedEx Field, but there are many many other events there: the Rolling Stones, Notre Dame, Army and Navy football, Kenny Chesney. So that’s our sponsorship, and we really don’t have any dog in this issue from a standpoint of FedEx. From a personal standpoint, I’m a shareowner in the Redskins football team, but Mr. Snyder — who’s the majority owner — and the Redskins speak for the franchise.”
Asked more directly whether he believes the name should change, Smith finally answered. By saying he won’t answer.
“Gonna remain personal,” Smith said. “I think that FedEx’s contract is with Washington Football for the stadium. And I’m here representing 300,000 FedEx team members and FedEx shareholders. So our sponsorship is a good one for FedEx Field, and the Redskins need to speak on the Redskins name.”
That’s a weak response, especially since FedEx necessarily endorses the name by continuing to lend its name to the stadium whose primary tenant is the Washington NFL team. Smith likewise endorses the name by continuing to be a minority owner.
But Smith didn’t get to be so rich by being stupid. With plenty of delivery alternatives and the issue becoming a hotter and hotter potato politically and quite soon perhaps commercially, stating his views would risk alienating those who disagree with him.
It doesn’t make his position in any way courageous (because it’s in every way cowardly), but it makes his position smart.
Even though it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Smith supports the name. The fact that he won’t declare that he does underscores the problem of having a name based on a word that has evolved into a racial slur.