By Jennifer Tran, a Fall 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern
On September 9, online retailer Etsy took a positive step toward fairness and decency by announcing that it would no longer permit items with the name or logo of Washington’s professional football team to be sold on their website. The announcement was in line with other moves by the company to prohibit sellers from selling threatening and demeaning products, like items that promote rape and domestic violence.
In announcing the policy change, spokeswoman Bonnie Broeren wrote on Etsy’s blog that this decision was to ensure that their marketplace was “safe, welcoming, and respectful for everyone, including artists, women, and minorities.” She also emphasized that they would no longer sell products with the name because “the fact remains that Native Americans themselves find the term unacceptable.”
The day after the Etsy announcement, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, also expressed his concern with the team name. Speaking to reporters at a wireless conference, he said that he found the term “offensive and derogatory.” He urged people to continue expressing their discontent with the name with the hopes that “if enough people express themselves, [owner] Dan Snyder can see which way things are going.”
Although Etsy is among the first retail companies to explicitly come out against the name, it joins a number of prominent organizations that have already taken a stance. Media outlets such as Slate Magazine and the Washington Post’s editorial board have banned the team name from their publications.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights also expressed this sentiment when it voted unanimously at its national board meeting in December 2013 for a resolution urging the team’s owner to change the name. Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, articulated the importance of the ban, noting that “having an offensive slur for the Washington team name teaches young people to celebrate the denigration of people for being who they are.”
With any luck, these moves will inspire other companies, individuals, and organizations to take a stand on the issue. While many have criticized this movement as an instance of overblown political correctness, it is, at its core, a fight for the respect of a community.