By Brandon Schlager, Perform Media, Sporting News
At 30,000 members strong nationwide, Alaska’s largest Native American tribe has taken direct aim at FedEx in the hope that the shipping giant’s financial clout might persuade the Washington football team to change its racially-charged nickname once and for all.
Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska says it will boycott all FedEx services so long as the company continues to sponsor the Redskins. In doing so, the tribe, one of the nation’s largest, believes its strength in numbers could be enough to hit the NFL franchise where it hurts — its wallet.
FedEx owns the naming rights to the team’s stadium and is one of its top sponsors.
“This isn’t anti-FedEx. We are exercising our strength financially,” tribal president Richard Peterson said, via the Juneau Empire. “If you actively support entities, in this case specifically a sports franchise that has a mascot and name derogatory to our people, we’re going to spend our dollars elsewhere — that’s us voting with our dollars.”
The Redskins nickname is considered by many to be derogatory toward indigenous peoples. By definition, the Merriam-Webster dictionary recognizes the term as “very offensive and should be avoided.”
But team owner Daniel Snyder insists the moniker is intended to honor Native Americans and has refused to accommodate demands to change it, despite intense public and political pushback.
So far, the team’s biggest sponsors have remained mostly silent on the matter. But that’s what the CCTHITA intends to change with the support of joint organizations like the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund.
“We have a longstanding relationship with Washington Football Inc. (the Redskins’ parent company),” FedEx president Fred Smith, a member of the Redskins ownership group, told CNBC in June 2014 — the last time the company has made a public comment regading its relationship with the franchise.
“The Redskins play at FedEx Field. But there are many, many other events there: the Rolling Stones, Notre Dame, and Army and Navy football, Kenny Chesney. That’s our sponsorship, and we really don’t have any dog in this issue from the standpoint of FedEx.”
Peterson said the boycott will remain in effect until FedEx pulls its sponsorship or the Redskins remove a name he says perpetuates racial stereotypes.
“It’s like anybody else using the N-word,” Peterson said. “It’s like calling our women squaws. It may have been popular … with colonial, backwards-minded people back in the day, but I don’t think it’s appropriate and we need to be a voice and a champion.
“Hopefully they’re going to say, ‘You know what, we’re not going to wave our confederate flag or these old symbols of racism.'”