FedEx-Association with Washington NFL Team Controversy (2016)
Outcome: Omitted by SEC
The NFL’s Washington D.C. team name, “Redskins”, has been the subject of widespread public debate for decades. That controversy has direct implications for FedEx because the team plays at FedEx Field.
Proponents believe this is a matter of human dignity and justice. “Redskins” remains a de-humanizing word characterizing people by skin color and a racial slur with hateful connota-tions. Virtually every major national American Indian organization has denounced use of Indian and Native related images, names and symbols disparaging or offending American Indian peoples, with over 2,000 academic institutions eliminating “Indian” sports references.
Anheuser-Busch, Philip Morris, Coca-Cola, Denny’s, and Miller Brewing ceased association with names and symbols disparaging Native peoples. Proponents believe FedEx should drop or distance ties to name, logos and/or stadium sponsorship until the team abandons its name.
We believe FedEx may suffer reputational harm from this controversy illustrated as follows:
• In June 2014, the National Congress of American Indians wrote FedEx CEO Fred Smith stating it is “allowing its iconic brand to be used as a platform to promote the R-word — a racist epithet screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gun-point off their lands.”
• Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole and Osage nations an-nounced boycotts of FedEx and urged others to join them.
• Members of the UK Parliament voiced opposition to the team playing in London in 2016 because of the team name.
• 67% of American Indians surveyed in 2014 agreed that the team name is a racist word or symbol.
• 200 civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, have condemned the name.
• 100 organizations petitioned FedEx to request review of its relationship with the team.
• Ten Congressional members sent letters urging a name change to team owner Dan Snyder, NFL Commissioner Goodell, and FedEx.
• 50 U.S. senators wrote to Commissioner Goodell urging the NFL to demonstrate that “racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports, … [and] to endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C. football team.”
• NBC’s Bob Costas devoted a Sunday Night Football commentary to the name, con-cluding it is “a slur.”
• Dozens of columnist and media outlets announced they would stop use of the name, including the New York Daily News, Detroit News, and Kansas City Star.
• The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes NFL diversity and is named after the first black NFL head coach, announced opposition to the name.
• Thousands protested team games in 2014 and 2015.
• The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the team’s trademarks, calling the name “disparaging”.
• 2016 Presidential candidates have weighed in on the name controversy.
• 25% of people surveyed in 2016 say the team should change its name, up from 18% in 2014.
RESOLVED: Shareholders request the Board issue a report by March 2017, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, describing legal steps FedEx has taken and/or could take to distance itself from the Washington D.C. NFL team name.