The Washington Redskins accused Adidas of “hypocrisy” Thursday, hours after the sports apparel company offered financial and creative aid to U.S. high schools interested in replacing Native American-themed mascots. The NFL franchise has been at the center of a yearslong, nationwide debate about whether school and professional sports teams should change team names that are potentially offensive.
Adidas’ program grants high schools access to the company’s designers to create new uniforms and team logos, as well as financial aid to help fund the redesigns. The company stressed the initiative is limited to high schools and should not be seen as an attempt to compel professional sports franchises to change their team names, the Associated Press reported.
A Redskins spokesman criticized the program, pointing out Adidas has lucrative partnerships with professional sports leagues. Team officials have steadfastly refused to alter the franchise’s name, which they say is meant to honor Native Americans, even as prominent advocacy groups and politicians, including U.S. President Barack Obama, call for change.
“The hypocrisy of changing names at the high school level of play and continuing to profit off of professional like-named teams is absurd,” Redskins spokesman Maury Lane said in a statement to the Washington Post. “Adidas makes hundreds of millions of dollars selling uniforms to teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and the Golden State Warriors, while profiting off sales of fan apparel for the Cleveland Indians, Florida State Seminoles, Atlanta Braves and many other like-named teams.”
Adidas reported nearly $18 billion in revenue for its 2014 fiscal year. The German apparel company is the official uniform provider for National Basketball Association, including the Warriors and will become the National Hockey League’s official jersey provider beginning in the 2017-18 season. In addition, Adidas has a sponsorship deal with Robert Griffin III, the Redskins’ first-round draft pick in 2012 and former starting quarterback.
Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown approved the California Racial Mascots Act, which banned the state’s high schools from using the word “Redskins” for athletic team names. Oregon enacted a similar law in 2012, the AP reported.
“We are not mandating a change,” Adidas spokesman Michael Ehrlich said in an email to the Washington Post. “We are committed to continuing a dialogue to look at the issue of Native images in sports and work to find solutions. Ultimately, it’s the teams, athletes, coaches and fans who decide what changes they want to make. And if they want to make a change and we have the resources to help, then we want to help.”