John Vrooman, Vanderbilt University: Statement on Washington NFL

John Vrooman, Vanderbilt University: Statement on Washington NFL franchise name change. 6/20/2014
The persistence of the not so subtle racism inherent in the name "Redskins" will probably not go away in
spite of the huff and puff obstinence of current owner team owner dan snyder. Snyder has warned that
he will NEVER change the name. Never say NEVER: In the spirit of this of this decision and in light of
changing demographics of the NFL fan this self-defeating defiance may become Snyder’s last stand.
The most obvious difference between now and that last publicized protest in the mid-1990's is the
change in ownership in 1999 from Jack Kent Cooke’s estate to Dan Snyder and the re-cycling of NFL
stadiums that occurs about every 20 years. Privately financed (by Cooke) FedEx Stadium opened in 1997
at a cost of $251 million.
Snyder borrowed a significant (read nfl max) of the original $750 million purchase price and has since
squeezed every penny and sought out every revenue crook and cranny to retire that debt. What was
once a generation long season-ticket waiting list has been reduced to zero for certain high priced seats
as snyder tries to max out the revenue potential of Cooke's money machine. Snyder is still a prisoner of
the fedex revuenue stream and that obsession could and should trump his contoversial reliance on the
racially troubled past (read george preston marshall) of the Washington Redskins. If Snyder ever seeks
public support for a new quasi-public stadium this racial slur of a franchise name will have to change,
whether Snyder likes it or not.
Racial discrimination is inconsistent with the profit max motive (read snyder) cannot survive in a truly
competitive environment. The only way this insensitive name can survive is in an environment of
monopoly power (being only nfl club in town) or if the racism is consistent with the values of the “redskin
nation.” The Baltimore Ravens and Washington Nationals, Capitals, and Wizards (whose name was
changed from the Bullets in 1997) can perhaps leverage the Redskins in the mid-Atlantic sports market
but the unavoidable name change ultimately depends on the values of the Redskins corporate sponsors
and Redskins corporate season-ticket, luxury-seat base.
Check out the infamous race related history of the Redskins. I think the Redskins were considered the
team of the South before the AFL-NFL war in the 1960's and it was the reluctance of then owner George
Marshall to expand into the South that created the organization of the AFL in 1960. I think the redskins
were the last team to racially desegregate in the mid 1960's. Marshall once said that the redskins would
sign black players when the Harlem globetrotters signed white players. the redskins name change
was marshall's idea in the early 30's....The team was previously called the braves in boston...just like the
boston baseball braves who are now the Atlanta braves (by way of milwaukee). The Braves team name
may be objectionable to some Native Americans but “redskins” is objectionable to all.
Forbes values the redskins at $1.7 billion (twice the highly leveraged price paid by snyder in 1999) and
sets the brand portion of value at $145 million or about 8.5% of total value. By comparison the Dallas
cowboys are valued at $2.3 billion with brand equity of about 12.5%. It is doubtful the brand equity
would suffer if the redskins changed the name to reds or skins or redhawks, but there is the risk that the
brand value could erode if the underlying club racial values are called into question. The name change
should be a no-brainer positive-sum decision for such a profit maximizer as dan snyder.
Obviously Snyder cares most about what the die-hard fans say, but the problem with that pretzel logic is
that die-hard fans ultimately die off. A higher proportion of regional fans support a change than
nationally, and if that trend continues it is possible it will start to affect luxury suite and corporate sales.
My guess is that the redskins equally shared national revenue is slightly less than 50% of an estimated
$380 million total. The current tv contract pays the skins and average of $127 million which will jump by
about 60% to an average of $190 million over the next 9 seasons 2014-22. The national revenue share
serves as snyder’s racism tolerance cushion and it measures the strength of his reluctance to change the
More recently for the more valuable clubs like the cowboys and skins (along with the patriots, giants,
jets, bears, eagles and other top tier revenue nfl clubs, including the baltimore ravens) the share of
revenue derived from unshared venue money has doubled since the debut of FedEx stadium. The threat
to venue money is the weakness of dan snyders defiant defense against simply doing the right thing.
Venue revenue includes concessions, sponsorships, naming rights, club fees and luxury suite leases. This
revenue stream could be as much as a third of the skins total revenue and it is critical to Snyder. Venue
revenue is the most vulnerable to economic reaction against even the hint of racism, and that social
reaction is just beginning.
Major sponsors include bud, coke, comcast, fedex, and verizon all of whom would join the movement if
they sensed the backlash. then there are the luxury suites holders and club seat patrons who are usually
private corporations ranging from large publicly held corps to small law firms. This is where snyder is
vulnerable to boycott or the influence of strong sponsor suggestion. snyder is not as cash strapped as in
the past but he is still sensitive to the bottom line and he is the ultimate promoter in his own mind, (not
unlike george marshall who created the racial negativity to begin with).
In the end even the most scheming revenue squeezing profit maximizer should see the writing on the
Fed-Ex Stadium walls. The corporate gains from a name change far exceed the individual losses, and the
losses from clinging to the heritage of george marshall's race-insensitive mascot far exceed the potential
gains. This is a no-brainer positive-sum economic move. George Preston Marshall is gone in body and
racist spirit: it is time to change the name.