Stadium Sponsor FedEX Faces Heightened Reputational Risks
FedEx Increasingly Embroiled in Ongoing Controversy Over Washington D.C. NFL Team Name
June 19, 2014///Bethesda, MD///Investors filed a shareholder proposal with FedEx Corporation (NYSE:FDX) asking the company to “respond to reputational damage from its association with the Washington D.C. NFL franchise team” and its name controversy. FedEx possesses the naming rights to the team’s stadium, FedExField, in Landover, MD through 2026.
This announcement adds to the escalating crisis for the Washington D.C. NFL team in the wake of the United States Patent and Trademark Office decision on Wednesday to cancel the team’s trademark, calling the team’s name “disparaging to Native Americans.”
The team name “Redskins” is a dehumanizing label that characterizes people by skin color. The term has long-standing hateful and offensive connotations.
The Oneida Trust of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin is the lead filer of the proposal, with Mercy Investment Services, and Calvert Investments serving as co-filers, along with support and assistance from Boston Common Asset Management, Walden Asset Management and Trillium Asset Management.
“As investors, we believe that the FedEx board and management must address the reputational risks linked to its sponsorship of the Washington NFL team franchise. Each time a game is broadcast or the team name mentioned, the company is perceived as supporting disparaging and racist language,” said Jonas D. Kron, Senior Vice President, Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Trillium Asset Management, LLC. “Concern over the team name has grown over the past eighteen months, with heightened calls to change it.”
Two hundred civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and every single national American Indian organization, have condemned the name. Even national voices as disparate as President Obama, U.S. Senator Harry Reid, and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer have weighed in against the team name. Sportswriters and newspapers have also chosen to stop the use of the name. For example, NBC’s Bob Costas of Sunday Night Football, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and USA Today’s Christine Brennan all publicly concluded the team name is a racial slur.
The Washington, D.C. City Council in November 2013 unanimously approved a resolution condemning the name. In May, 50 U.S. Senators sent letters to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging him to push for a name change as “The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur.”
“As times change, so must our language. Given the historic and present connotations of the name, turning real people into caricatures and mascots or insulting a portion of our population with an offensive name is no longer acceptable in this day and age," said Reed Montague, Sustainability Analyst at Calvert Investments. "We strongly encourage FedEx to address and examine its role in perpetuating and supporting such stereotypes.”
With its corporate name on FedExField, the company continues to be associated with the controversial team name. Newspapers and media outlets use FedEx in stories, articles and headlines related to the Washington team.
“There is growing consensus that there is no reason for the team to continue to use a logo with a symbol that is contemptuous and condescending toward Native Americans. FedEx has a responsibility to do more and to respond to the ongoing reputational damage generated by this controversy, reminiscent of Aunt Jemima, black face and other racist uses of African American people and heritage. The issue isn’t going away—nor should it”, said Sister Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u., Mercy Investment Services, Inc.
"We encourage FedEx to fully appreciate the emotional violence that racist stereotypes do to Native youth, including the current disparaging name of the Washington D.C. NFL football organization,” said Steven Heim, Managing Director, Boston Common Asset Management, LLC. “We urge FedEx to end its financial ties until the racist name is changed or distance its association with such disparagement.”
Currently, FedEx is seeking to censor its shareholders by asking the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for permission to exclude the shareholder proposal from its 2014 proxy statement. FedEx wrongly argues that this is not a significant issue for investors to consider at the company’s annual meeting in September 2014.
About Boston Common Asset Management
Boston Common Asset Management specializes in sustainable and responsible global equity strategies. It seeks long-term capital appreciation by investing in diversified portfolios of high quality stocks. Through rigorous analysis of financial, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors we identify innovative, attractively valued companies for investment. On behalf of its shareholders, Boston Common urges portfolio companies to improve transparency, accountability, and manage for the long term. The firm manages US, International and Global portfolios for institutions and individuals through separate accounts, commingled and mutual funds. http://bostoncommonasset.com
About Calvert Investments
Calvert Investments is a leading investment management company using sustainability as a platform to create value for investors. Serving financial advisors and their clients, retirement plans and insurance carriers, and institutional investors, the company offers a broad array of equity, bond, and asset allocation strategies, featuring integrated environmental, social, and governance (ESG) research and corporate engagement. Strategies are available through mutual funds, sub–advisory services, and separate account management. Founded in 1976 and headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Calvert Investments had more than $13 billion in assets under management as of April 30, 2014. www.Calvert.com
About Mercy Investment Services
Mercy Investment Services, the socially responsible asset management program for the Sisters of Mercy and its ministries, works for systemic change in the areas of non-violence, racism, environment, concern for women, and immigration. www.mercyinvestmentservices.org
About Trillium Asset Management
Trillium Asset Management, LLC is the oldest investment advisor exclusively focused on sustainable and responsible investing (SRI). With approximately $1.5 billion in assets under management we believe that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors play an integral role in the investment process, which can lower portfolio risk and help identify the best-managed companies. For investors seeking ethical and mission-related investing strategies, Trillium is a leader in shareholder advocacy and public policy work. Our goal is to deliver both impact and performance to our private and institutional investors. http://www.trilliuminvest.com
For more information:
Jonas D. Kron, Trillium Asset Management, LLC firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-894-7551
Melinda Lovins, Calvert Investments, Inc., email@example.com, 301-657-7089
Sister Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u., Mercy Investment Services, Inc., firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-674-2542
Steven Heim, Boston Common Asset Management, LLC, email@example.com, 617-785-9527