“Don’t make it seem like you were forced, get ahead of it and think about it. The way things seem to be rolling now it’s inevitable”
By Cameron Hogwood and Richard Graves
Last Updated: 03/07/20 9:52am
Brian Mitchell has seen the debate over the Washington Redskins name controversy take place for over 30 years, but never has he witnessed the level of pressure currently on the team to make the change.
The organisation is once again facing challenges over its name, with FedEx requesting it be changed, the delivery company having owned naming rights to Washington’s stadium since paying $205m in 1999 in a deal that runs until 2025.
This comes after a group of 87 investment firms and shareholders lobbied them, Nike and PepsiCo to end their sponsorship of the team unless it changed its name.
Mitchell, who won the Super Bowl with Washington in 1991/92, believes the potential financial implications could eventually trigger a reaction from the franchise.
“Ever since 1990 I’ve been asking this question and I’ve always told people ‘I can’t change it’,” Mitchell told Sky Sports News. “I’ve always said that when money starts being affected something will happen.
“The pressure is getting to a point in this country and around the world where certain names and themes are becoming taboo. We think back to five years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, there are words people used that can no longer be used.
“People sit there and try to come up with all these polls that I keep hearing about and I don’t believe that the Indian population, the Native American population has been truly represented in those polls.
“So many of us, people of other cultures and races try to speak for them and it’s time for them to speak for themselves and if it’s a problem, just like the ‘n’ word when it comes down to me as an African American, if 10 per cent think it’s bad it’s bad.”
Heightened attention regarding the Washington Redskins name comes as the world strives for social reform following the unlawful killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Events DC recently removed a statue of former Washington owner George Preston Marshall from RFK Stadium following his reluctance to integrate his roster before becoming the last owner to finally do so in 1962.
“I think when you look at a lot of different things that are happening and transpiring I think that right now it seems to be the most pressure I’ve ever seen,” added Mitchell. “And every time it happens again it gets to be more and more.
“You’re looking at the amount of investors and these people are speaking out and trying to get it done, I don’t think many people in the business world can function if all those people start pulling away.
“I look also to where the SEC put pressure on the state of Mississippi to take the confederate flag off the state flag. That’s happening.
“The thing for me is this. Love the team, but my question is ‘do you actually cheer for the actual name or do you cheer for the concept and people?’ I think that’s the whole thing about it.”
As the world makes change to put itself on the right side of history, Mitchell has urged the team to get ahead of the curve.
“This is a time where you do it and get ahead of it,” he said.
“Don’t make it seem like you were forced, get ahead of it and think about it. The way things seem to be rolling now it’s inevitable.”