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Opinion: Washington NFL team loses business with racist name

Filed Under: Business | Opinion | Sports
More on: mascots, nfl, racism, redskins

The logo for the Change the Mascot campaign

Two professors say a study of economic data shows why the Washington NFL team should eliminate its racist mascot:
Unlike college athletics, professional sports don’t have a recent tradition of dropping Indian team names. But the effect of maintaining such a name can still be measured. We created a statistical model of team brand equity (roughly, the economic value of a brand) in the National Football League. The idea was to determine whether revenues exceeded or lagged behind what would otherwise be expected based on team performance and market factors like the size and median income of the local fan base.

We found that the Redskins have indeed experienced decreasing brand equity over the past decade. Interestingly, the two N.F.L. teams with the most negative brand equity trends from 2002 to 2012 were the Redskins and the Kansas City Chiefs (another American Indian team name).

The other teams with the most negative trends were the Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns, all of which had average winning percentages over this period that were well below 40 percent. Though the Redskins and Chiefs also had below-average winning percentages, they lost even more brand equity than did those teams that experienced such pronounced on-field failure over the past decade.

We acknowledge that there could be other factors that explain the Redskins’ decreasing brand equity. But elementary principles of brand management suggest dropping the team name, regardless. While it’s true that recent survey data suggest that more than 70 percent of Washingtonians think the team should not change its name, consider the inverse of that statistic: A remarkable 30 percent of the local populace finds the team name offensive. Even among the faction of Washingtonians that favors retention of the team name, more than half report that they find the term inappropriate.

Get the Story:
Michael Lewis and Manish Tripathi: ‘Redskins’ Is Bad Business (The New York Times 6/25)

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