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'Pretty inevitable' | Historian says pressure in 2020 to replace NFL team name finally led to change

Washington's football team was able to get through notable eras of social change before a movement for civil rights and equality proved too great this year.

WASHINGTON — The announcement by Washington's NFL team on Monday that it would change its name and logo came after an effort first began decades ago to do so.

Earlier this month, the team said it would conduct a "thorough review" of the name after sponsors began calling for change.

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The team name was first adopted in 1933 when the franchise was based in Boston.

Following the announcement on Monday, the Native American Bar Association of DC said the decision was greatly needed.

"It teaches children that tacit racism and stereotyping is acceptable behavior," member Jared Hautamaki said. "For the sponsors to take the lead here, I think [team owner Daniel] Snyder finally got the message.” 

While the team played under its name for over 80 years, historian Richard Crepeau said that the franchise was able to make it through significant eras of social change in history.

"There seemed to be other issues that were more pressing," he said. "You had the racial issues of the 60s and the desegregation questions.”

RELATED: Native American son of Redskins logo designer says it's not offensive, calls the change 'hard'

Washington's NFL football team has retired its team name after 87 years. WASHINGTON - The Redskins is no longer the team name for Washington's NFL team. The franchise announced Monday morning it has officially retired the controversial name. Washington's NFL team had used the nickname since 1933.

Creapeau added that controversy over the team name was likely able to be largely avoided during the '70s, '80s, and early '90s due to the franchise's success on the field and five Super Bowl appearances.

"All that period when the Redskins were such a good team, they had cover," he said.

However, the pressure to change the team name and logo was amplified earlier this year following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the movement for civil rights and equality it sparked.

"The Black Lives Matter movement has had a force and a power equal to the civil rights movement of the '60s and maybe even more powerful," Crepeau said. "Its social pressure is really strong and it has reached a wide audience.”

By the time many Americans turned their attention to Washington's NFL team this year, he said the calls to change the name and logo were too great.

"The pressures have grown to such a point that the defenses just aren’t there," the historian said. "I think it was pretty inevitable that it was going to go.” 

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While the Native American Bar Association of DC said the team's change was a sign of progress, one member said they would call on local school districts to stop allowing team merchandise with the logo to be worn on school grounds.

Another said they wanted the logo to be banned at FedEx Field.

"Instead of people getting upset that the name has changed, I hope that they take a minute and think about why this could potentially be offensive to Native people and Native communities," member Stephanie Sfiridis said. 

"I know that while today is a great day to be lauded, it’s just one day," added member Jared Hautamaki. "The struggle is going to continue.”

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