In an move to pressure the Washington Redskins football organization, US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that her office will likely bar the team’s plans to build a new stadium in Washington, DC unless it changes its name—which is seen as racist toward Native Americans.
Jewell oversees America’s trust lands and treaties with Native American tribes and the National Park Service which owns the land where the team wants to rebuild its stadium. She called the team’s name “a relic of the past.”
“Personally, I think we would never consider naming a team the ‘Blackskins’ or the ‘Brownskins’ or the ‘Whiteskins,’ ” Jewell told ABC News. The term “redskin” has been associated with the practice of killing Native Americans for bounty or a scalped head sold for cash.
Numerous advocacy groups, politicians, including President Barack Obama, have expressed their disapproval of the football team’s name. Last year, the US Patents and Trademark Office revoked the Redskins federal trademark for its logo, ruling it “disparaging to Native Americans.”
But despite the waves of protest, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has been adamant about keeping the team’s name. “We’ll never change the name,” he said. “It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps,” he told USA Today. “As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means.”
An astute businessman who owns a successful marketing firm, Snyder is keenly aware of the value of the Redskins brand name. Despite its dismal winning record—the team finished last in its divisional grouping last year—the Redskins is the third most valuable team in the National Football League, valued at US $2.4 billion, and it generated $395 million in revenue last year, a 41% spike from 2013.
The block by the National Park Service stymies plans to bring the Redskins stadium, which is now in Landover, Maryland, back to the US capital. Snyder has been eyeing the spot of its former stadium, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Southeast Washington, hoping to hearken back to the era of the team’s glory days, when the Redskins won multiple Super Bowls trophies.
“We’ve already seen some preliminary drawings and I’m going to be very retro with it,” Snyder told Comcast SportsNet. “It’s gonna feel like RFK. It’s gonna move like RFK. I love that, I actually asked architectural firms to do it and they said that they can do it. I said that I think the lower bowl sections are going to want to rock the stadium like the old days.”
Quartz reached out to the Redskins organization, which declined to comment.