NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump criticized the Washington Redskins for reviewing their team name on Monday, as top retailers continued to pull the NFL franchise’s merchandise from shelves.
Under mounting pressure from sponsors and racial justice advocates, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder said on Friday the team would rethink its controversial name, with Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians following suit.
“They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct,” Trump said in a tweet.
The Redskins, one of the oldest NFL franchises dating back to the 1930s, have long resisted calls for a new name and logo. The term “Redskins” is widely seen as a slur against Native Americans.
The Cleveland Indians, which are to begin playing in July after the COVID-19 outbreak put the MLB season on hold, have phased out their “Chief Wahoo” logo in recent years but retained the use of their 105-year-old nickname.
Trump has previously voiced support for the Redskins team name and in 2013 hit at then-Democratic U.S. President Barack Obama, who said he would “think about changing” the name.
Controversy over the team’s name resurfaced in recent weeks amid widespread racial and social justice protests across the United States after the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Top sponsors, including PepsiCo and FedEx Corp, which has the naming rights to the NFL team’s Landover, Maryland, stadium, called for a change last week, while retailer Nike said it welcomed the team’s decision to review the name
On Monday, all Washington Redskins merchandise was gone from the Nike online store and was no longer being sold by the retailer.
A Target spokesman told Reuters on Monday that it began the process of removing Washington Redskins merchandise from its shelves and online store over the weekend.
Walmart said on Friday that it would discontinue the sale of products bearing the team name or logo.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Dan Grebler)