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Volume 23 No. 18
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Washington NFL team headed for a new nickame

The Washington Redskins intend to select a new nickname as soon as possible, sources close to the organization said, despite the team’s public statement that it is merely undergoing a “review” of the problematic moniker.


In one case, a source said, a potential bidder for a minority ownership stake has been personally assured the name will change. Separately, a key business partner to the team said all recent internal conversation around the name has been decisive, centering on controlling owner Daniel Snyder’s desire for a change, what the new name might be and logistics.

“It’s going to change,” said that source.

On July 3, the team announced it was considering a change, an about-face from Snyder, who famously said in 2013 “We’ll never change the name.” It came a day after FedEx, which has the naming rights to the team’s stadium in Landover, Md., publicly asked for it to change. While industry insiders took the statement to indicate a switch was highly probable, the team has not elaborated on the review.

However, a potential new limited partner, who is considering bidding on a share of the team, has been told that a name change is definitely coming. FedEx Chairman and CEO Frederick Smith, Robert Rothman, and Dwight Schar, who together hold about 40% of the team, decided to exit before the recent reemergence of this issue. Baltimore-based Moag & Co. is representing them in their efforts to sell.

Industry sources say some of those shares have been on the market for upward of 18 months, and response has been muted. The Washington situation is just the latest dilemma created by the rapidly escalating valuations of NFL teams and the league’s restrictive ownership rules, likely requiring a buyer to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a limited stake.

Even assuming a 25% limited-partner discount on the most recent Forbes estimation ($3.4 billion), that 40% share would trade for more than $1 billion. Also it comes along with becoming a partner to the unpopular Snyder.

Both Moag and the team declined to comment.

On the other hand, the franchise sits in one of the wealthiest major markets in the country and has not been consistently competitive in more than 25 years, suggesting it could rapidly gain in value under better football management and a new nickname not defined by dictionaries as a disparaging, or at least anachronistic, term for Native Americans. Failing to change the name would make signing new sponsorships extraordinarily difficult.

Sources say the team has not given up on executing a name change before the start of the 2020 season, though that would present huge logistical challenges and leave licensees with lots of useless product. Amazon, Target and Wal-Mart are among the retailers no longer offering team merchandise. Normally, the timeline for a comprehensive rebrand would take 18 months to several years.