The Washington Redskins American football team will review its name after demands from major sponsors.
Its headline sponsor, Fedex, joined a fresh wave of calls to scrap a team moniker long-criticised as racist.
The Washington DC-based team has faced years of pressure over a name seen as offensive to Native Americans. The latest calls come amid a fresh focus on racism sparked by worldwide protests.
FedEx made the request at the behest of its own investors.
Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, said: “This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League (NFL) and the local community.”
At the turn of the millennium, FedEx paid $205m (£165m) for the naming rights to the Redskins’ 82,000-seat stadium in Maryland. The deal expires in 2025.
But that is not the delivery giant’s only tie to the team. The boss and founder of FedEx, Frederick Smith also owns a minority stake in the Redskins.
The team has been under pressure to change its name for decades.
Six years ago, FedEx shareholders voted to allow the Redskins to keep its name after the shipping giant received a complaint from the Wisconsin-based Oneida Indian tribe.
But as firms assess their stance on issues around race, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, FedEx has now called for the team to rebrand.
Last week, 87 investment firms and shareholders wrote to FedEx, along with fellow Redskins’ sponsors Nike and PepsiCo, calling on the firms to sever ties with the Redskins, according to trade publication AdWeek.
“‘Redskins’ remains a dehumanising word, characterizing people by skin colour and a racial slur with hateful connotations,” the letter written to PepsiCo said.
“We have been in conversations with the NFL and Washington management for a few weeks about this issue,” a PepsiCo spokesperson said.
“We believe it is time for a change. We are pleased to see the steps the team announced today, and we look forward to continued partnership.”
As of Thursday, Nike’s website did not display any Redskins merchandise. The Washington-based team was the only one of the 32 NFL teams no longer listed in the site’s index.
Nike did not immediately respond to the BBC’s request for comment.
In the past, the team’s owner Mr Snyder has remained steadfast on keeping the name, calling it a “badge of honour”.