As the NFL fails and refuses to pressure Washington owner Daniel Snyder to change the dictionary-defined slur that has been the team’s name for decades, NFL sponsors are being lobbied to do what the NFL won’t do.
Via Mary Emily O’Hara of AdWeek, 87 investment firms representing $620 billion in assets sent letters last week to Nike, FedEx, and Pepsi, asking the companies to refuse to do business with the Washington franchise until it changes its name.
“Many of us have raised this issue with Nike for years to little avail,” said the letter sent to the NFL’s official apparel provider. “But 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. Therefore, it is time for Nike 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.”
FedEx holds the naming rights to the stadium where Washington plays, and CEO Fred Smith holds a minority ownership interest in the team. Pepsi is the NFL’s official soft drink of the NFL, and it presents the halftime show at every Super Bowl.
“This is a broader movement now that’s happening that Indigenous peoples are part of,” Carla Fredericks, director of First Peoples Worldwide and director of the University of Colorado Law School’s American Indian Law Clinic, told AdWeek. “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.”
It remains to be seen whether pressure on these companies will create pressure on the team. Again, at a time when the NFL is doing nothing to nudge Snyder toward doing the right thing, the pressure will need to come from other places. It will be interesting to see whether any of these companies will do anything other than issue a “no comment” and join the league and the team in a fairly obvious effort to run out the clock until everyone starts paying attention to something else.