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October 08, 2013

Shareowners Question FedEx over Washington Redskins
    by Robert Kropp

A floor resolution at the company's annual meeting cites global human rights standards in asking for a report on the impact of ending a business relationship with the NFL team over racist nickname.

SocialFunds.com -- In the midst of growing controversy over the allegedly racist nickname of the Washington Redskins football team, billionaire owner Dan Snyder has maintained that the team's nickname will not be changed. But even President Obama has weighed in on the issue, telling the Associated Press that if he were the team's owner he would consider changing the name.

And Sports Illustrated sportswriter Peter King wrote at the beginning of the NFL season, “I’ve decided to stop using the Washington team nickname...it offends too many people, and I don’t want to add to the offensiveness.”

The team plays its home games at FedEx Field, so named because the transportation company “paid a reported $200 million in 1999 for sponsorship including naming rights until 2026,” according to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).

“Recognizing the offensiveness of the name, in May, ten members of Congress sent letters to team owner Dan Snyder, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and FedEx management urging them to change the team’s name which they referred to as a 'racial derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word,'” ICCR continued.

Citing such global standards of human rights as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, shareowners associated with ICCR introduced a floor resolution at FedEx's recent annual general meeting, calling on the company to report on “the impact of ending the business relationship” with the team.

Susan White, Director of Trust for the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, moved the resolution at the meeting, stating, “As investors we are frustrated that the board and management of FedEx refuse to acknowledge that, through their sponsorship of the Washington NFL franchise, they are complicit in propagating what amounts to hate speech every time a game is broadcast.”

Mercy Investment Services co-sponsored the floor resolution. Director of shareholder advocacy Valerie Heinonen said, “As shareholders we are appealing to FedEx on the basis of proper board and management oversight of the serious risks to the brand this sponsorship poses. The human rights impacts must be assessed if FedEx is to maintain its social license to operate.”

Reed Montague of co-filer Calvert Investments said, “Corporate America should not be supporting racist or offensive names or images...As shareholders, we are deeply concerned about the adverse impact continued involvement may have on shareholder value.”

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