A group of asset managers, shareholders and ESG advocates asked Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to sever business and public relationships with the Washington Redskins if team management continues to refuse to change its name.
The request was made in a letter sent June 26 to each of the three major sponsors by 85 groups and asset managers with a combined $620 billion in assets, including First Peoples Worldwide, Oneida Nation Trust Enrollment Committee, Trillium Asset Management, Boston Trust Walden, Mercy Investment Services, Dana Investment Advisors, First Affirmative Financial Network and As You Sow.
In the letter, the group said: "Many of us have raised this issue with (FedEx) for years to little avail. But in light of the Black Lives Matter movement that has focused the world's attention on centuries of systemic racism, we are witnessing a fresh outpouring of opposition to the team name. Therefore, it is time for (FedEx) to meet the magnitude of this moment, to make their opposition to the racist team name clear, and to take tangible and meaningful steps to exert pressure on the team to cease using it."
Jonas Kron, senior vice president and director of shareholder advocacy for Trillium, said some group members have been asking for the name change for years. "The issue has ebbed and flowed for decades," Mr. Kron said. With recent protests related to Black Lives Matter, "we started also seeing the companies saying really important things about social justice. We wanted to remind them," Mr. Kron said in an interview. He described it as an open letter, with more firms and groups expressing interest in signing it.
The pressure is particularly great on FedEx, whose name is on the Washington team’s stadium. In a statement, FedEx said: "We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name."
Mr. Kron said Nike has made some gestures, including sending special Veterans Day sweatshirts to all NFL teams, with the ones sent to the Washington team simply saying 'Washington Football.' The letter also noted that Nike has stopped using the Washington football team name on some products. "Thus it is timely and urgent for FedEx to also review its own business relationships," the group said.