Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder used to be able to ride out the storm whenever critics mounted another campaign to get him to change the team name some consider a racist slur against Native Americans.
"Never," is the answer he's given in the past. But this year, the barrage of criticism -- fanned by social media, regular media and advertising -- has reached an all-time high, leading some to wonder if the team that plays in Washington will have to plunk down $15 million to change its name.
The Oneida Indian Nation, based in upstate New York, has been making headway with a radio campaign and "ChangeTheMascot.org" website declaring it's "simply wrong to use the offensive term "Redskins' to sell anything, much less an NFL team." And Sports Illustrated's Peter King and USA Today's Christine Brennan have vowed not to use the word "Redskins" again.
Most disconcerting for fans of the name, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seems to be backing ever so slightly away from his former support of Mr. Snyder by telling a D.C. radio station on Sept. 11: "If one person is offended, then we have to listen."
All of this comes after 10 members of Congress sent letters to Mr. Snyder, Mr. Goodell and FedEx CEO Fred Smith urging a name change in late May. A group of Native Americans have launched a trademark suit challenging the Redskins' ability to exclusively use or profit from the name.
But Mr. Snyder and his team do have the backing of most Americans as well as the stadium's sponsor. A June Washington Post poll found that two-thirds of Washington-area fans opposed a name change. In a national Associated Press-GfK poll, 4 out of 5 Americans were against such a change.
"We understand that there is a difference of opinion on this issue," said a FedEx spokeswoman. "Nevertheless, we believe that our sponsorship of FedEx Field continues to be in the best interests of FedEx and its stockholders."
In today's politically correct environment, the Redskins are probably "delaying the inevitable," warned crisis-PR adviser LeslieAnne Wade, principal at Wade Media Management. Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor Associates, said a design firm could come up with a new name and logo for the Redskins -- and roll it out within six months -- at a price tag of $10 million to $15 million.
Landor helped the NFL create a leaner, meaner "Shield" logo in 2008 and helped rebrand FedEx from Federal Express in 1994.
Coming up with a new moniker would only run $500,000 to $1 million, he said. The real expense would be replacing the old name and logo at the team's FedEx Field stadium in Landover, Md., and Redskins Park HQ/training center in Ashburn, Va.
Said Mr. Adamson: "The cheapest part is coming up with the creative. The most expensive part is hoisting the new letters on top of the stadium."
With an estimated value of $1.7 billion, the Redskins rank as the third-most valuable NFL franchise, behind the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots, according to Forbes. The team declined to comment.