Six years ago, the New York Daily News made the decision, when covering the National Football franchise in Washington, D.C., to dispense using its official nickname, noting that while “Enormously popular and deeply ingrained in sporting culture,” the moniker “is a throwback to a vanished era of perniciously casual racial attitudes.”
After decades of defiantly rejecting calls to change the name, principal owner Dan Snyder on Monday finally came to his senses. Why the sudden change of heart? To paraphrase an old chestnut, “Money talks, racist BS walks.”
Snyder finally listened, not to activists in the streets marching for George Floyd, but to activists in the boardroom.
FedEx, which bought naming rights to the team’s suburban Maryland stadium for $208 million, insisted on an evolution. Other big sponsors, including Amazon (annual revenue: $87 billion), Nike ($35 billion) and Pepsi ($67 billion) voiced similar complaints.
Yes, systemic racism remains a problem in this country, but national values have changed — and those at the commanding heights of capitalism are more attuned than ever to consumer preferences.
Six-plus decades ago, when the values of the Jim Crow South were ascendant, businesses had to follow the segregated laws of the region. Madison Avenue had to be aware of “Southern sensibilities” in deciding “appropriate” national advertising or what models to place on magazine.
In diverse, multicultural 21st century America, no company could sanction a sports team explicitly named after a racial epithet.
For good reason, a baseball team in Cleveland is looking over its shoulder too.
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