Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
This image released by the Charlotte Hornets, shows the NBA basketball team's new uniforms. The team unveiled three new primary uniforms featuring white, purple and teal colors on Thursday, June 19, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Charlotte Hornets)
FedEx neutral in debate over Washington’s name
Sponsor » Company whose name is on NFL team’s stadium staying out of nickname fight.
First Published Jun 19 2014 05:26 pm • Last Updated Jun 19 2014 05:26 pm

Washington • The company most associated with the Washington Redskins is keeping its distance from the debate over the team’s name in the aftermath of a trademark ruling that found the name to be "disparaging" to Native Americans.

FedEx has its name on the Redskins’ stadium, and its president, Fred Smith, is a member of the team’s ownership group. But both a senior official and Smith are remaining neutral on owner Dan Snyder’s efforts to keep the name in the face of unprecedented opposition.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"It’s not our place to have a position on the name," Patrick Fitzgerald, FedEx’s senior vice president for marketing, said Thursday.

Fitzgerald consistently referred to the Redskins as "the Washington NFL team" during an interview and did not use the nickname, but he said that was not a reflection of company policy. Smith did call the team the "Redskins" during an interview with CNBC, but he pointed out that FedEx Field hosts more than just the NFL team’s games.

"We have a longstanding relationship with Washington Football Inc. (the Redskins’ parent company). The Redskins play at FedEx Field," Smith told CNBC. "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."

Smith also said his personal feelings about the name will "remain personal" and that Snyder should speak on behalf of the team.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled Wednesday that the Redskins name is disparaging to Native Americans and that the team should be stripped of federal trademark protection. The team plans to appeal and the case could take years to resolve, but the decision gives more momentum to an anti-"Redskins" movement that has drawn in political, religious and sports figures in addition to Native Americans.

FedEx has been facing pressure from shareholders to end its association with the team. The Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, which owns FedEx shares, filed a proposal supported by five companies in April asking FedEx to "respond to reputational damage from its association" with the team. The tribe is separate from the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, which has been at the forefront in the campaign to change the name.

"It creates a real reputational risk for FedEx," said Jonas Kron, Trillium Asset Management, which helps manage the Wisconsin tribe’s assets and supported the shareholder filing. "We saw what happened with the L.A. Clippers and different brands disassociating themselves from the team. This is really a moment where FedEx needs to ask itself if this is a name they want to be associated with."

Kron said FedEx is seeking to quash the shareholders’ filing through the Securities and Exchange Commission. He said a decision from the SEC is expected within three weeks, and the issue could come to a vote at the company’s annual meeting in September. Last year, the shareholders voted down a proposal that asked the company to reconsider its naming rights for the stadium.

story continues below
story continues below

Fitzgerald said FedEx has no comment on the shareholder filing.

To date, none of the many companies with ties to the Redskins have announced any plans to curtail or cancel sponsorship because of the debate over the name. Harris Teeter issued a statement Thursday saying the grocery chain "has been following this story and trusts that whatever decision Mr. Snyder makes about the name of his organization will be the right decision for the greater community and his team."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.