News & Politics

Redskins Selling Less Merchandise as Name Criticism Heats Up

Sales of the team's branded gear fell 35 percent in one quarter.

Photograph by Flickr user showbiz kids.

Some of the most frequent critics of the Washington NFL team’s name say Dan Snyder will only be nudged toward changing it once the controversy starts hitting him in the wallet. Well, it looks like it might be.

Sales of the team’s branded merchandise fell 35 percent in the last quarter, compared with an overall 3 percent increase for merchandise across the entire NFL, according to research by SportsSourceOne, an athletic apparel industry publication. While some of Washington’s drop is likely a reaction to the team’s abysmal 3-13 record last year, the analyst who reviewed NFL merchandise sales says continuing, widespread protests against the dictionary-defined racial slur the team uses at its name play a factor, too.

“People are having a second thoughts about wearing a T-shirt with the logo or name that it has now been called racist,” Matt Powell, the analyst behind the report, told CNN, which first reported SportsSourceOne’s research.

Team spokesman Tony Wyllie told CNN the merchandise drop is about last year’s lousy squad, but Powell’s data suggest otherwise. Powell tells Washingtonian by e-mail that the Houston Texans, the only team worse than Washington last year, saw sales of their merchandise drop by only 5 percent after a 2-14 run. Powell adds that he “absolutely” believes Washington’s team name fed into its merchandise collapse.

Declining merchandise sales are obviously bad for Washington’s, but the trend ripples throughout the rest of the NFL, in which every team (except the Dallas Cowboys) splits merchandise revenue. Powell’s research also gives critics of the team’s name another talking point.

“This data strongly suggests that more and more NFL fans are deciding they do not want to financially aid and abet Dan Snyder’s ongoing campaign to slur Native Americans,” says Joel Barkin, a spokesman for the Oneida Indian Nation, which launched a highly visible campaign against the team’s name last year. “Clearly, the more people learn about the history, meaning and serious consequences of this racial slur, the more they realize it is time for a change.”

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.