Central Council Tlingit Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska is boycotting FedEx.
The Juneau-based tribal organization announced Thursday that it has sent notice to all employees to stop using FedEx services, citing the national delivery company’s sponsorship of the Washington Redskins football team.
In a news release, Central Council says FedEx is a top sponsor of the football team, and economic pressure might encourage the delivery service to reconsider financial support of the Washington, D.C.-based team.
The issue is the team’s name. The word “redskins” dates back to colonial times, and refers to Native Americans. It is considered offensive by many with Native heritage.
Tlingit Haida Central Council President Richard Peterson says he understands that the team name has a long history.
“There’s debate even among Native Americans on whether it’s derogatory,” he said. “But I think most people feel like the name Redskins is derivative of racial slurs against Native Americans.”
According to the Central Council, other tribes and tribal groups also are boycotting FedEx, including the Native American Rights Fund and National Congress of American Indians.
Central Council Tlingit Haida is a federally recognized tribe with a membership of about 30,000, and Peterson says he hopes the membership will join tribal employees in the boycott.
“Who better to take a stand and to exercise our concerns and voice that through our spending?” he said. “Just saying, we’re not going to spend our dollars with folks that are going to be supportive of what we consider racism.”
Peterson stressed that this move isn’t an attack on FedEx or the Washington Redskins.
“We would just ask that they really take a look at what they’re doing,” he said. “If I’m doing anything that has a negative impact on people, I would certainly take a look at that and do some self-examination. I’d hope that the ownership of the Redskins would do that, and the corporate sponsors that endorse them would realize, it’s time to take down our Confederate flag, so to speak.”
A message sent to FedEx public relations resulted in a written email statement. It says “FedEx has closely followed the dialogue and difference of opinion regarding the Washington Redskins team name, but we continue to direct questions about the name to the franchise owner.”
This story has been updated to include comments from CCTH President Peterson.