It turns out that renaming and rebranding his franchise was the least of Dan Snyder’s problems. Things have been a lot worse around the Washington Redskins than just a racist nickname.
According to the Washington Post, 15 former employees have charged the franchise with maintaining a culture that embraced sexual misconduct throughout the organization, behavior more fitting for a college fraternity house than a professional football team.
Who would ever have suspected such shenanigans?
All the time, the major complaint with the team was the nickname, something Native Americans often protested to no avail. The team has been called the Redskins since 1933 and fans, many of them Washington D.C. legislators, proudly wore Indian head dresses to the games and serenaded home team touchdowns by singing “Hail to the Redskins.’’
Snyder is a traditionalist. When the nickname issue began to gain momentum a few years ago, the owner made a stand.
“We’ll never change the name,’’ he declared. “It’s that simple. NEVER. You can use caps.’’
Never turned out to be not all that long after all when the folks at FedEx knocked on Snyder’s door to complain about the name and the Indian head logo . This was significant because FedEx pays a cool $8 million every year for naming rights to the team’s stadium in Landover, Md. Snyder could dismiss the hand-wringing over the nickname. He was not about to dismiss $8 million, part of a $200 million commitment the trucking company had made to his team.
Within a day of FedEx calling attention to the issue, two other sponsors, Nike and Pepsi-Cola, added to the FedEx drumbeat. It was then that the owner said the name issue would “undergo a thorough review.’’ Not long after that and after the review had determined that the old name would disappear, the team’s Ladies Auxilary’s complaints surfaced.
Heads have rolled in the wake of this mess. Dennis Greene, who was in charge of the cheerleaders, left in 2018. Alex Santos and Richard Mann, the top executives in the pro personnel department, were fired. Play-by-play announcer Larry Michael retired. All three were accused of sexual harassment in the Post’s report. Bruce Allen, the president, and Larry Hess, the trainer, were fired in December. Eric Schaffer, the team counsel and vice president for football operations, departed in January.
Not a pretty picture.
This is not unprecedented in sports, though.
Jerry Richardson was founding owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and came under fire in 2017 over charges of sexual harassment in the front office. A year later, under duress, he sold the team.
In the NBA, Donald Sterling’s off-court hi-jinks led commissioner Adam Silver to order him to sell the Los Angeles Clippers.
As complicated as the off-field mess is, changing the nickname and logo are no simple matters, either. There are copyright issues to unravel, memorabilia and merchandise to consider and settling on a name that can be appealing to the fan base can be complicated.
One thing is certain.
They won’t be playing “Hail to the Redskins’’ after touchdowns anymore.