Legacies are on the line, and Fred Smith knows it.
The founder of FedEx owns a minority piece of the Washington team, along with Robert Rothman and Dwight Schar. Thus, the jarring, 16-word statement from FedEx regarding its request that the team change its name becomes much more than a perfunctory public comment from a sponsor feeling the heat from 87 investment firms holding $620 billion in assets. Smith, through his company, has publicly broken ranks with his partner, Daniel Snyder, calling him out to make the change.
At a time when Snyder’s 31 partners who own other NFL teams haven’t said a word about the issue, Smith has taken a stand. Smith surely realizes that the decisions made and actions taken in this moment will echo into the coming decades, altering perhaps significantly the way the men and women of this age are remembered. As Smith inches toward his 80th birthday in 2024, Smith likely understands that everything he has accomplished could become a footnote to the fact that he was complicit to the intransigence of Daniel Snyder regarding a dictionary-defined racial slur that he refused to abandon at arguably the most significant time of racial reckoning and awakening in American history.
None of this means Snyder will do it. Presumably, Smith has tried to get Snyder to change the name privately, and Snyder obviously has refused. The next question becomes whether Smith will strip his company’s name from the stadium in which the team plays and sell his interest in the franchise, if Snyder persists in his refusal.
Frankly, Smith doesn’t seem like the type of person who will simply shrug and say, “Well, I tried” if Snyder remains dug in. Now that Smith, through his company, has spoken, Smith likely will take action to dissociate himself and his company from Snyder, if Snyder continues to ignore the impact of his stubbornness on his own legacy.