STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Washington's NFL team is changing its name. In a statement today, the Redskins confirmed they are retiring that name and their logo. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is following this story. Tom, good morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: I've paid attention to the city where I live's football team for some years, and I remembered a quote, went and looked it up, and it was accurate - in 2013, Dan Snyder, the owner, said, quote, "we will never change the name of the team." So what changed?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, and he also said, all caps; you can write that in all caps.
GOLDMAN: So, Steve, in all caps, we are (laughter) - we are saying today that the Washington Redskins are retiring that name, as you said. A very brief statement the team released - the name, the logo will be gone. So after 87 years of having this name and decades of protest against it, it is gone.
INSKEEP: Don't know the new name?
GOLDMAN: We don't know yet. You know, in this brief statement, it also said that Washington owner Dan Snyder and head coach Ron Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design an approach that will enhance the standing of our proud tradition, rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years. The delay right now, reportedly, is having to work out trademark issues. Some of the most popular names, though, that have been mentioned - the Red Wolves; the Warriors; the Red Tails, in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, the African American fighter squadron that flew in World War II, their planes had crimson tails. So those could be possibilities.
INSKEEP: Well, let's remember what the argument was about here. For many, many years, the team had been accused of having a racist name and a racist logo. They had resisted and said they were honoring Native Americans in various ways. And, clearly, there was a lot of money at stake, and that would be one reason that Dan Snyder had said, we're not going anywhere with this name. What made this moment different?
GOLDMAN: Well, as you well know, there have been, you know, as you say, protests reaching back to the 1970s. But, obviously, the pressure really mounted since the police killing of George Floyd in late May. You know, we have seen a number of symbols, flags and statues change and come down, and the Washington team wasn't immune to that pressure.
But, you know, I hate to be cynical here, Steve, but what really got them thinking hard was when sponsors made it clear there needed to be a change. FedEx - whose name is on the stadium in Maryland - Pepsi, Nike, to name a few, all said they want it changed. Another important factor - the team has wanted to relocate to Washington, D.C., its original home. FedEx Field is in Maryland. The team practices in Virginia. D.C. politicians say, we'd love to have you back, but you've got to change the name of your team. So that factored in as well.
INSKEEP: Are other teams facing similar pressure?
GOLDMAN: Yes, they are. Whether they will respond the same way, we don't know. The Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball reportedly are discussing a change. The Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball say they won't change their name. But, reportedly, they're mulling whether or not to prohibit the tomahawk chop, the chant and the chopping motion that fans use during games. You know, lots of college teams over the years have jettisoned controversial names with not a lot of pushback. There will be longtime Washington fans upset about this because it is changing a long-held tradition. But the team will go forward.
INSKEEP: Tom, thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.