FedEx Corp – Association with Washington NFL Team Controversy (2015)
Outcome: Omitted by SEC. This proposal was subsequently introduced as a "floor proposal" at the September 28, 2015 meeting.
The past two years marked a significant turning point in debate over the NFL’s Washington D.C. team name, “Redskins”. FedEx purchased naming rights to the team’s stadium, FedExField.
“Redskins” remains a dehumanizing word characterizing people by skin color and a racial slur with hateful connotations. Virtually every major national American Indian organization has denounced the 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 the name, logos and/or stadium sponsorship until the team abandons its name.
We believe FedEx may suffer reputational harm from this controversy illustrated by the following:
• In June 2014, the National Congress of American Indians sent a letter to FedEx CEO Fred Smith concerning the team name stating that it is “allowing its iconic brand to be used as a platform to promote the R-word — a racist epithet that was screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands.”
• The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole and Osage nations are boycotting FedEx and urge others to join them.
• 200 civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, have condemned the name.
• 100 organizations petitioned FedEx to request a 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.”
• President Obama said he would consider a name change if he owned the team.
• NBC’s Bob Costas devoted a Sunday Night Football commentary to the name, concluding it is “a slur.”
• Dozens of columnist and media outlets announced they would stop the 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.
• The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the team’s trademarks, calling the name “disparaging”.
• The New Yorker featured a Thanksgiving themed cover mocking the name.
• The AP stylebook review committee is considering whether the name is offensive and should be removed from its stories.
RESOLVED: Shareholders request the Board issue a report by January 2016, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, describing the legal steps FedEx has taken and/or could take to distance itself from the Washington D.C. NFL team name.