The Washington “Redskins” Will Soon Be No More

What happened?  Corporate America got woke, and took sides.

Member of the Navajo Nation shows up in support of the "Redskins" in Arizona in 2014.

“Nine in 10 Native Americans say they are not offended by the Washington Redskins name, according to a new Washington Post poll that shows how few ordinary Indians have been persuaded by a national movement to change the football team’s moniker.”  That’s from a Washington Post article on May 19th, 2016.  Many activists who’d pressured the Redskins for decades to drop the name backed off, when faced with objective evidence that woke progressives were more bent out of shape over it than actual Native Americans.  Bill Maher even made fun of the snowflakes on his HBO show.  Citing the poll, he dismissed the name’s critics, remarking that it was now obvious that 90% of Native Americans didn’t give a s**t about it.

Four years later, the Washington “Redskins” will soon be no more.  What happened?  Corporate America got woke, and took sides.

“Thanks to mounting pressure from corporate sponsors including FedEx and large companies like Amazon, Nike, and Dick’s Sporting Goods,” wrote the finance website The Street on July 9th, “the team has announced it is officially reviewing its name.”  Following the George Floyd riots, and all the associated mayhem, corporate America unloaded on the Redskins.  “On July 8, Amazon announced it was pulling Washington Redskins merchandise from its site, and called on all sellers to remove said merchandise within 48 hours.”  (Within 48 hours?  How do small businesses, like clothing manufacturers, retool production and dispose of inventory that now can’t be sold because cancel culture has “canceled” it, in just two days? Hopefully Amazon covered any losses those small businesses incurred—-Lord knows they’re rich enough to afford it.)  A CNBC article on July 9th cited a notice from Amazon to vendors that contained this ominous warning: “Failure to properly close or delete all restricted product listings from your inventory may result in deactivation.”  Imagine being a small business owner, threatened by Amazon with “deactivation.”  Sounds like an economic death sentence.

Other major corporations piled on. “In recent days,” wrote CNBC, “Walmart, Nike and Target said they would stop selling Washington Redskins gear.” FedEx, which has the naming rights to the Redskins’ stadium, called on the team to change their name. And as a result, an apparent crime by four Minneapolis policemen led to an NFL team on the East Coast having to change its name.  This time, when the Woke Police whistled, corporate America not only got off the sidelines; it came running.

Reminds me of a story about Stalin.  Supposedly his staff told him that the Pope was unhappy with him.  “How many divisions does the Pope have,” Stalin replied.  Could it be that the Woke Police now have a bunch of new divisions—FEDEX, Amazon, Walmart, Pepsi, etc…?  After what happened to the Washington Redskins, how can authors write books, or businesses make products, or entrepreneurs start online businesses, without wondering if they could also get canceled on 48 hours’ notice?

John Keim, ESPN’s Washington Redskins beat reporter, wrote an article titled “How the Events of 2020 Forced The Washington NFL Team’s Name Change.”  The article makes clear that it was corporate America that drove those “events” that actually forced the name change. Less than two weeks after George Floyd’s death:

Bank of America pledged $1 billion over four years to invest in “communities of color and minority-owned businesses.” The company released a statement that read: “The events of the past week have created a sense of true urgency that has arisen across our nation, particularly in view of the racial injustices we have seen in the communities where we work and live. We all need to do more.”

When advocacy investor groups saw those words, their eyes got wide. It opened a door for an argument to separate the NFL franchise from its nickname. (Emphasis added)

Keim quotes extensively from Jonas Kron, “the senior vice president and director of shareholder advocacy for Trillium Asset Management.”  Kron’s glee is impossible to miss in the quotes.  “11 years of groundwork on pushing for a name change turned into overnight success.”  Well, when you manage to get major American corporations to quickly come together and smash a business, you’re going to be successful.

Yesterday, Bari Weiss resigned from the New York Times.  Weiss had been battling intolerant progressives who’d taken over the culture of her paper.  In a Tweet on June 4th, Weiss said that there was a “civil war inside the New York Times between the (mostly young) wokes” and “the (mostly 40+) liberals.”  Weiss’ side apparently lost.  But, that war is not contained within the staffs of elite news publications.  Weiss said that war was “the same one raging inside other publications and companies across the country.” (Emphasis added).
We’ve known for the longest time that America’s top universities produce many woke Social Justice Warriors (SJWs).  Major corporations—like Amazon, Walmart, FedEx—recruit top talent from the business schools in America’s top universities. Therefore, it stands to reason that the front offices of many major American companies might now have a fair number of younger employees who feel entitled and empowered to inject politics into business.  The experience of the Washington Redskins seems to provide evidence that supports that assumption.

Does anyone think the Woke Police are done?  Ha!  Why would they quit?  They are on a hot streak, and they know it.  They pick new targets quickly.  Word that the Redskins would abandon their name and logo first appeared on the Internet late Sunday night, July 12th.  By 7AM Pacific time on the 13th, Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor for the Washington Post, had identified the next target.  “I spent the last week reading about the horrific atrocities against Indians, Mexicans and Black people that the historic Texas Rangers were responsible for during Texas’s early history. The Texas Rangers’ team name must go.”  You can’t blame Karen (yes, her name is Karen) for trying to strike when the Woke Police have all the momentum.  Karen’s employer, the Washington Post, is owned by…Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon.  And I’m sure that Amazon’s corporate headquarters has plenty of employees from America’s top (and most woke) universities.

The Woke Police aren’t stupid.  They’re not going to insist that the SJWs in major American corporations officially and openly pledge to do business, based on what the activist community does or doesn’t want.  (Savvy businesspeople know it’s important to keep up appearances).  The SJWs don’t have a standing Woke Corporate Army.  But they now may have a Woke Corporate Militia.   A “militia” is made up of non-soldiers who come together when there’s a need to fight, and then disband when the fight is over—until the next fight.

In John Keim’s article, he quotes Ron Rivera, the new Redskins head coach.  “I’m just somebody that’s from a different era, when football wasn’t such a big part of the political scene. That’s one of the tough things for me, too, is I’ve always wanted to try to keep that separate. People have wanted me to get involved in politics while I was coaching, and I kept telling them, ‘It’s not for me to get up there and influence people.’”  Unfortunately for Rivera, and the rest of us, for the SJWs, everything is politics.  And now, the Woke Police have reason to think they have a Work Corporate Militia they can summon quickly and crush those who displease it.
Most of us had hoped that this whole SJW, Cancel Culture fever sweeping the country would soon die out.  We want the SJWs to leave us alone.  After the Woke Corporate Militia took down the Washington Redskins, those hopes and wants are sadly misplaced.  The SJWs have tasted blood, and predators that taste blood find themselves craving more.  Ask yourself—if you were a corporate SJW, and saw how quickly the corporate world thumped the Redskins…would you stop?  Wouldn’t you seek out new targets to hound?

If you want Texas Rangers merchandise, I’d buy it now.

About Donald Smith 3 Articles
Donald Smith wrote the “Fort Buckley” blog on from 2011 to 2012. He lives in Tucson.