Redskins' Sponsors Remain Mostly Mum On Name Issue, But Some Face Pressure To Act
The Redskins' corporate sponsors "largely remained on the sidelines" of the debate regarding the team's name in the wake of a federal ruling that it is "disparaging to Native Americans," according to Josh Peter in a special to USA TODAY. Only grocery store chain Harris Teeter "took a stance -- supporting team owner Daniel Snyder and his vow to keep the Redskins' nickname." FedEx, which owns the Redskins' stadium naming rights, "distanced themselves from the legal proceedings rather than the team's use of the nickname." Bank of America, Sprint and Coca-Cola "were among the major sponsors that did not respond to requests for comment." Sponsorship consulting firm IEG Senior VP/Content Strategy Jim Andrews said, "I think the sponsors have just said let's see which way the wind blows, and when it starts really changing direction will be the time when we will have to take some course of action." But those outside the Native American community on Thursday "tried to apply pressure against the Redskins' corporate sponsors." A group of investors "filed a shareholder proposal with FedEx asking for the company to 'respond to reputational damage from its association' with the team." FedEx Senior VP/Integrated Marketing & Communications Patrick Fitzgerald said that the company had no comment about the proposal but added, "FedEx Field sponsorship is beneficial to our company's shareholders, team members and the local community." Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Dir Paul Swangard said that the "relative silence among corporate sponsors ... may be misleading." Swangard: "It would be naive to think that they're not monitoring this situation closely and just waiting to see what the general reaction is" (USA TODAY, 6/20).
MORE THAN FOOTBALL: FedEx Chair & CEO Fred Smith, who also has a personal stake in the Redskins, acknowledged while his company has naming rights to FedExField, "there are many other events there," including sporting events and concerts. Smith: "So that's our sponsorship and we really don’t have any dog in this issue." Smith said his personal stance on the Redskins name is "going to remain personal" and added "FedEx's contract is with Washington Football for the stadium ... so our sponsorship is a good one for FedExField and the Redskins need to speak on the Redskins name" ("Closing Bell," CNBC, 6/18). Fitzgerald: "It's not our place to have a position on the name" (AP, 6/19).