The Washington Redskins announced last week they are undergoing a "thorough review" of its team name and, in all likelihood, a name change is inevitable.
Last week, the organization faced a tremendous amount of public pressure from some of its largest corporate sponsors, such as FedEx, PepsiCo and Nike, to change the name. On Saturday, Washington head coach Ron Rivera said he hopes the team name is changed before the 2020 NFL season.
However, switching the name requires multiple steps, both legally and business-wise. According to CNBC sports business reporter Eric Chemi, a name change before the season is possible, but not without financial losses for some of those same sponsors pressuring Washington to make the move.
"It's possible - if companies like Nike want to lose a lot of money on the gear they've already made," Chemi said.
Chemi compared the situation to when athletes themselves decide to change their name and the fallout that comes from that. Companies like Nike and other jersey manufacturers have licenses that prevent players from changing their name or number right before the season.
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When former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson legally changed his last name to 'OchoCinco' in 2008, Reebok, the NFL's jersey manufacturer at the time, did not sell jerseys with 'OchoCinco' on the back for the rest of the year. For Reebok to sell Johnson's new uniform, the wideout would have had to purchase the estimated 100,000 'C. Johnson' jerseys remaining on store shelves in America, according to CNBC.
"We've seen that when athletes change their name, sometimes companies say 'No, we've spent too much money making jerseys with your name already on it,'" Chemi said. "Or, if you want to change your jersey number, 'Sorry, we need a one-year heads up on that.'"
We saw this most recently this past offseason in the NBA when Anthony Davis was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Davis, who had worn No. 23 his entire career prior to the deal, was expected to be gifted that number by LeBron James, who planned to switch back to the No. 6 he wore when he was a member of the Miami Heat.
Davis was unable to get No. 23, as Nike prevented the switch from happening because it was past the March 15 deadline. Davis ultimately decided to wear No. 3 this season, with James keeping his original No. 23.
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Currently, there is still plenty of Redskins gear on store shelves across the country. Although Nike has removed Washington's gear from its website, the company still makes money when its product is purchased through the team or other manufacturers that sell Nike products.
Nike released a statement last Friday saying it was "pleased" that the Redskins organization was moving forward to change its name. And if the company is comfortable with losing money by having the name changed, Chemi believes it's a possibility it happens before the 2020 season.
"So, if they're willing to lose a lot of money on stuff they've already made, then sure, maybe they can go ahead in the next month and change the name."
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