The Washington Redskins announced Friday that they plan to conduct a “thorough review” of their team name for the first time under owner Dan Snyder. It’s perhaps the most significant development in a saga that has played out over the course of nearly 50 years.
Despite scrutiny around the name and its interpretation as a racial slur offensive to Native Americans that has spurred legal disputes and public calls for its removal, the Redskins have held strong in their refusal to budge on the subject—until now.
Here’s a look at all the events from over the years that led up to Friday’s announcement.
1933: Under founding owner George Preston Marshall—whose name was recently removed from the Redskins’ Ring of Fame—the Boston Braves changed their name to the Boston Redskins in order to eliminate confusion with the MLB’s Boston Braves, who later moved to Atlanta. The franchise moved to Washington four years later.
1967: The Redskins receive a formal trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the name.
1971-72: A group of D.C. reporters at a variety of outlets including The Washington Post, Washington Daily News and Washington Star become the first prominent advocates against the name. Wrote Paul Kaplan of the Washington Star, “Some think of the symbols as monuments to their strength and manhood. Others disagree, bitterly denouncing the derogation of their heritage, an ignorance of their culture and an unabashed commercialism in the sense that Indian names and heroes are exploited with no recompense whatsoever for our native Americans.”
1972: The Redskins introduce a new logo featuring the profile of a Native American warrior. That depiction still stands as the team’s primary logo today.
1992: As the Redskins played the Buffalo Bills for Super Bowl XXVI in Minnesota, a group of about 3,000 demonstrators held picket signs outside the stadium protesting against the name. Later that year, a group of “American Indian leaders” filed a petition that requested the team name be changed.
1999: A suit filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Board in 1992 is ruled in favor of a Native American group championed by Suzan Shown Harjo, a member of the Cheyenne tribe. However, the Redskins ultimately won an appeal of the decision in 2009 because a judge ruled the Native Americans waited too long to raise the issue after the trademark was approved.
2006: A second lawsuit is filed with the trademark office, this time led by Navajo tribe member Amanda Blackhorse. The suit alleged that the name was disparaging toward Native Americans and its trademark should be removed.
2013: In an interview with USA TODAY, Redskins owner Dan Snyder said, "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER—you can use caps." The Oneida Indian Nation then held a season-long protest of the name in which members traveled to every Redskins road game to spread the message. President Barack Obama weighed in, saying he would “think about changing it” if he were owner.
2014: A group of 50 U.S. Senators, all Democrats, signed a letter to the NFL asking for the Redskins to change their name. The Redskins also lost a ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that said the name was disparaging to a “substantial composite of Native Americans.” Washington would appeal the decision, which was overruled by the Supreme Court in 2017.
2020: Following weeks of nationwide protests for racial equity and sudden financial pressure from investors, Redskins sponsors FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo all showed support for the idea that the team should change its name. FedEx issued a formal request for the name while Nike removed all Redskins apparel from its website. Snyder then issued a statement Friday that said the team would conduct a “thorough review” of the name, signaling for the first time the franchise was considering dropping the name.
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