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FedEx CEO Fred Smith declines to give his personal opinion on the Redskins name

(Nick Wass / AP file)

As has happened in the past, some opponents of the Redskins name have attempted to target FedEx in recent days. Via the AP:

FedEx has been facing pressure from shareholders to end its association with the team. The Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, which owns FedEx shares, filed a proposal supported by five companies in April asking FedEx to “respond to reputational damage from its association” with the team. The tribe is separate from the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, which has been at the forefront in the campaign to change the name.

“It creates a real reputational risk for FedEx,” said Jonas Kron, Trillium Asset Management, which helps manage the Wisconsin tribe’s assets and supported the shareholder filing. “We saw what happened with the L.A. Clippers and different brands disassociating themselves from the team. This is really a moment where FedEx needs to ask itself if this is a name they want to be associated with.”

FedEx CEO Fred Smith, part of the team’s ownership group, was on CNBC this week, and host Kelly Evans asked about the recent trademark news.

“And Fred, as a partial owner of the Washington pro football team known as the Redskins, do you think the team needs to change its name now that it won’t be able to have the protection of patents?” Evans asked.

“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. From a personal standpoint, I’m a shareowner in the Redskins football team, but Mr. Snyder — who’s the majority owner — and the Redskins speak for the franchise. I would point out that they’ve issued a press release on that today, and I’d refer people to that.”

“So your personal stance on the issue is…” Evans pressed.

“Gonna remain personal, Kelly,” Smith responded. “I think that FedEx’s contract is with Washington Football for the stadium. And I’m here representing 300,000 FedEx team members and FedEx shareholders. So our sponsorship is a good one for FedEx Field, and the Redskins need to speak on the Redskins name.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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