A service that tracks sports merchandising claims that sales for Washington Redskins gear has fallen 35 percent. SportsSourceOne believes that charges that the team wears a racist insignia and sports a racist name has hurt the brand.
“People are having second thoughts about wearing a T-shirt with the logo or name that it has now been called racist,” SportsSourceOne analyst Matt Powell told CNN.
But a more boring, standard reason more likely accounts for the drop. The Washington Redskins made the playoffs in 2012. They suffered through an abysmal 3-13 season in 2013 that witnessed empty seats, a fired coach, a hobbled and humbled quarterback, and no first-round draft pick to show for horrible campaign. There’s more hope in Mudville than Landover.
One can’t truly know how much the controversy has hurt. Forbes ranks the Redskins as the third most valuable franchise in the NFL. And save for the Dallas Cowboys, NFL teams pool merchandising profits. So, the NFL, which saws its merchandise sales up 3 percent overall, may be hurt by the anti-Redskins campaign as much as the team. Broadcasters such as ESPN’s Tom Jackson and CBS’s Phil Simms say they will consciously avoid saying the team’s name on the air, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has cancelled six trademarks, and political figures such as Hillary Clinton, fifty members of the U.S. Senate, and nearly every member of the California assembly have voiced displeasure over the nickname.
Mike Ditka called the controversy “horse$#!+” in an interview last month. “This is so stupid it’s appalling,” the Hall of Fame player and Super Bowl-winning coach explained. “And I hope that the owner keeps fighting for it and never changes it. Because the Redskins are a part of American football history. It should never be anything but the ‘Washington Redskins.’ That’s the way it is.”
A poll by Ditka’s current employer suggests that the vast majority of Americans agree with him. ESPN found that 71 percent of Americans favor keeping the name.