June 24, 2014

FedEx targeted for sponsoring Redskins

Shareholders concerned about FedEx link to Redskins

By Erik BradyA consortium of investment firms filed a shareholder proposal with FedEx in April asking the company to respond to "reputational damage" from the company's association with the Washington NFL club.

The firms, which emphasize responsible investing, went public with their filing Thursday, one day after a federal trademark board canceled the team's six federal trademark registrations on disparagement grounds.

The filing represents a new battleground in the fight over the Washington club's controversial team name—sponsors. FedEx owns the naming rights at the suburban Maryland stadium where the Washington team plays.

Jonas D. Kron, senior vice president, director of shareholder advocacy at Trillium Asset Management, told USA TODAY Sports that the firms have been working on similar proposals since 2009. He said FedEx opposes having the proposal placed on the proxy for its annual meeting in September.
FedEx flagged for 'reputational damage' from sponsoring Redskins stadium (Video)

By Kent HooverThe Oneida tribe was joined in the shareholder filing by Mercy Investment Services, an asset management firm for the Sisters of Mercy, and Calvert Investments, an investment firm based in Bethesda, Maryland.

“There is growing consensus that there is no reason for the team to continue to use a logo with a symbol that is contemptuous and condescending toward Native Americans,” said Sister Valerie Heinonen of Mercy Investment Services.

“FedEx has a responsibility to do more and to respond to the ongoing reputational damage generated by this controversy, reminiscent of Aunt Jemima, black face and other racist uses of African American people and heritage. The issue isn’t going away—nor should it.”

"We strongly encourage FedEx to address and examine its role in perpetuating and supporting such stereotypes,” said Reed Montague, sustainability analyst at Calvert Investment.

“Each time a game is broadcast or the team name mentioned, the company is perceived as supporting disparaging and racist language,” said Jonas D. Kron, senior vice president and director of shareholder advocacy at Trillium Asset Management, which provided assistance for the shareholder proposal.
Most sponsors sit out controversy over Redskins name

By Josh PeterA day after the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled the Washington Redskins' nickname is disparaging to Native Americans, the team's corporate sponsors largely remained on the sidelines.

Only Harris Teeter, a grocery store chain with stores primarily in the South, took a stance—supporting team owner Daniel Snyder and his vow to keep the Redskins' nickname.

FedEx, the company whose name is most closely tied to the Redskins because it owns the stadium's naming rights—the team plays at FedEx Field—distanced themselves from the legal proceedings rather than the team's use of the nickname.

Bank of America, Sprint Nextel and Coca-Cola were among the major sponsors that did not respond to requests for comment from USA TODAY Sports.
A tweet in response to this:

#RacistFedEx, #RacistBofA, #RacistSprint, and #RacistCocaCola all support the #Redskins slur, which denigrates Native people. #ChangetheName


Native Americans Support Consumers Boycotting FedEx Corporation Over Sponsoring Racism in NFLEradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, a group of Native parents and their allies from across the country started a pledge drive on change.org “Pledge to Stop Using FedEx While They Still Quietly Support the Washington ‘Redskins’ Shameful Mascot” for consumers or investors who wish to stop using FedEx products to feel support in their decision to boycott the corporation. Signers pledge to stop buying FedEx products, to the best of their ability, until FedEx drops sponsorship of the Washington NFL team using a cancelled trademark found to be disparaging against Native Americans by the US Patent and Trademark Office, over 200 civil rights organizations, and the majority of Native American Tribal Nations.

Sustainability Analyst at Calvert Investments Reed Montague said:

“As times change, so must our language. Given the historic and present connotations of the name, turning real people into caricatures and mascots or insulting a portion of our population with an offensive name is no longer acceptable in this day and age,” said Montague. “We strongly encourage FedEx to address and examine its role in perpetuating and supporting such stereotypes.”
Activist group targets FedEx over Washington NFL team name

By Erik BradyThe National Congress of American Indians sent a letter to FedEx CEO Frederick W. Smith on Tuesday asking for his help to change the Washington NFL team's name.

The two-page letter, set to arrive Wednesday, comes one week after a federal trademark court ruled "Redskins" is disparaging to American Indians. Smith, who owns part of the team, told CNBC last week that his company does not have a dog in the fight and that he prefers to keep his personal view to himself. A company statement Tuesday said FedEx has a longstanding contractual commitment to naming rights at FedEx Field and that questions about the team name should be directed to the team.

"At FedEx Field, your company is allowing its iconic brand to be used as a platform to promote the R-word—a racist epithet that was screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands," says the letter obtained by USA TODAY Sports. It is signed by NCAI executive director Jacqueline Pata, Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter and United Church of Christ ministers John Deckenback and Graylan Hagler.

The letter notes that a section of FedEx Field is named for George Preston Marshall, the team's original owner, who was last in the NFL to integrate and only under pressure from the U.S. Department of the Interior. Attached to that the letter is a one-page document listing Marshall's racist history.
As someone noted, the NCAI is a pan-tribal governance group, not an "activist" group. As with the US Congress, it isn't "activism" if this congress works for policy change.

The article also offers a reply from FedEx's CEO:"Well, first of all, let me answer that question from the standpoint of FedEx, which sponsors FedEx Field," Smith said. "We have a long-standing contract with Washington Football, Inc. The Redskins play at FedEx Field, but there are many, many other events there—the Rolling Stones, Notre Dame, Army and Navy football, Kenny Chesney. So that's our sponsorship, and we really don't have any dog in this issue from a standpoint of FedEx.A tweet in response to this:

@FedEx "doesn't have a dog" in the #Redskins battle--other than profiting from its support of the racist status quo.

Decision could cost millions

Meanwhile, pundits talk about the reality of a racist brand:

The question is not whether the football team will change its name, but when and how

By Mike WiseBeyond a very symbolic legal victory for this country’s most underrepresented and marginalized ethnic minority—no small win considering its rights have been trampled in the courts and the halls of Congress for centuries—it’s important because it could eventually hit Snyder in the wallet.

After legal appeals are exhausted, this effectively could enable you, me and Robert Griffin III to go into business together on a super store across from FedEx Field, where we would undercut exorbitant NFL prices and make a mint. Worse for the team, patent lawyers say, if sponsors aren’t scared off by the mounting glut of negative publicity against the name, they can get shafted by banks, grocery stores and auto dealerships that aren’t official sponsors of the team yet will be legally allowed to put posters and banners in their windows.

This could take as little as two years and as long as a decade. But sure as training camp starts in July, if Snyder wants to play this out to its ugly end, his bullheaded defiance in the face of growing, sustained opposition eventually is going to cost himself and everyone in the NFL who shares in merchandising profits—including players—millions.

Social pressure has begat economic pressure. Yikes.
Rodney K. Smith: The Washington Redskins must deal with the reality of a racist brand

By Rodney SmithThe battle over public opinion is being lost. Snyder and the owners of the Washington Redskins are increasingly being associated with a racist name they choose, through pride or perhaps principle, to maintain. They will soon be branded as racist.

Snyder should learn from the cautionary tale of Donald Sterling and the NBA. For Sterling, the costs of persisting in a battle of this sort are exceedingly high. Sterling will be viewed in history as a racist. The personal and economic costs are similarly significant for Snyder.

Other owners of the Redskins and their sponsors will soon find themselves backtracking rather than running the risk of being branded as part of a franchise that perpetuates a trademark that is perceived to be racist. As reputational costs mount, negative revenue implications will increase.

The Redskins depend on sponsorships and public support. Revenue from those groups will shrink as they assess the risk of being labeled racist. For example, Fred Smith, a co-owner, and Fed-Ex will be under increasing pressure to terminate their sponsorship, which is a major asset in the Redskin portfolio. Other sponsors and owners will follow.

The NFL is equally concerned with implications for its brand. The NFL and sponsors will pressure Snyder to relent. There are surely clauses in the NFL’s contracts and the contracts of sponsors with the Redskins that will permit them, if necessary, to take steps against Snyder, much as the NBA acted against Donald Sterling.

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