Tribal chief: No FedEx until Redskins change team name

By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN

(CNN) — A Native American chief has asked all tribal employees not to use FedEx until the Washington Redskins changes its team name.

“Until the name of the NFL team is changed to something less inflammatory and insulting, I direct all employees to refrain from using FedEx when there is an alternative available,” Osage Nation Chief Geoffrey M. Standing Bear penned in his directive to all employees.

The tribe also issued a news release saying that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder “chooses to stick with a brand which dictionaries define as disparaging and offensive. FedEx chose to endorse that brand through their sponsorship of Mr. Snyder’s organization.”

It concludes, “The Osage Nation chooses not to use FedEx services. We encourage other tribal nations to consider similar actions.”

Standing Bear was not available for an interview, but Assistant Chief Raymond Red Corn said the tribe would “stand-pat” on the press release.

“It was not our intention to become a news item,” he said, adding that “ethics” drove the tribe’s decision.

The Redskins play their home games at FedExField, to which the shipping giant purchased the naming rights in a 27-year, $207 million deal in 1999, Forbes reports. Fred Smith, FedEx’s chairman, president and CEO, is part of the team’s ownership group.

Patrick Fitzgerald, FedEx’s senior vice president of marketing and communications, released a statement Wednesday saying that his employer values its sponsorship of the stadium and “we are proud that FedExField is a venue that is used by a wide range of community groups.”

“FedEx has closely followed the dialogue and difference of opinion concerning the Washington Redskins team name, but we continue to direct questions about the name to the franchise owner,” Fitzgerald said.

Snyder has repeatedly defended the name and wrote in a March letter that the name “captures the best of who we are and who we can be, by staying true to our history and honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents.”

The team has employed Native Americans to defend the name and launched a site called Redskins Facts to promote its stance that the names honors Native Americans rather than disparages them.

The team also has created a foundation to provide resources to tribal communities.

The good deed hasn’t stemmed the controversy as opposition to the name persists, and President Barack Obama said last year that if he were Snyder, he might change the name.

In June, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled six trademarks belonging to the team, saying they were offensive. The team appealed the decision, saying it spent millions defending the trademark, and the patent office ruled the Redskins could use the logos until the years-long appeals process was complete.

The National Congress of American Indians has spoken out against the use of Redskins and other Native American mascots, and the Native Voice Network, which represents numerous Native American organizations, has targeted FedEx in its effort to convince Snyder to change the team name.

The Native Voice Network says use of “R-word” has a negative, dehumanizing effect on children, a major concern when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Native American people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Chrissie Castro, the Native Voice Network’s “network weaver,” says her group “definitely” supports Osage Nation.

“We’re very proud of their position and we’d love to see other tribal communities do the same,” she said.

The Oklahoma tribe has about 18,000 members and is situated in Osage County, the setting for the Meryl Streep movie, “August: Osage County.”

CNN’s Devon M. Sayers contributed to this report.