How much money would it take to convince Dan Snyder to sell or rename the [Pigskins]?
To sell them? A lot. When Dan Synder bought the team in May 1999, he said the deal fulfilled a “lifelong dream” and that the purchase was “the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened” to him. Snyder grew up as a fan; no matter how bad the team has been since he took over, he’s not likely to want to step down. Besides, even a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan would demand a high price for a franchise Forbes magazine ranks the eighth-most valuable sports team in the world. With FedEx Field, Robert Griffin III, and a loyal, if long-suffering, local fan base, the team is worth $1.6 billion, by Forbes’ calculation.
Changing the name, though, could be a different story. The controversy doesn’t seem to be hurting the team financially—right now. During RGIII’s first year two seasons ago, sales of his jerseys set a single-season NFL record; thanks to the league’s opaque financial setup, it’s not clear how much of that money wound up in Snyder’s pockets, but for the team to be worth more than $1 billion, they’ve got to get a decent cut.
A group of Native Americans are challenging the team’s right to its trademark, though, in a matter the U.S. Patent and Trade Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board is expected to rule on soon. If the board sides with the challenge, the team would no longer have exclusive rights to its merchandise—which would mean anyone who wanted to could sell “official” team gear, and the team would stand to lose a lot of money in sales revenue. As Snyder wrote season-ticket holders in October, “Wherever I go, I see [Pigskins] bumper stickers, [Pigskins] decals, [Pigskins] T-shirts, [Pigskins] everything.” Right now, when he sees all that stuff, he sees profit, but not if that appeal goes against him. A new name, though, would give Snyder a new trademark.
Even if the board upholds the mark, there could still be financial benefits to a change. “There would be a lot of interest amongst fans of the team and fans in general to have the team’s new logo,” says Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist. Sales of new merchandise would easily cover all the marketing and other costs involved in the switch, Zimbalist says.
But would a simple cost-benefit analysis be enough to change Snyder’s mind? Maybe not: This is the same guy who’s paying Mike Shanahan $7 million to not coach his team next season.