Washing(ton) away the past
Written by Iain Gibson, Associate Partner
Edited by Laura Hamilton, Managing Partner
When I was a nipper of eight or nine years old, I went through a phase of being obsessed with American football. This was in the early 1990s, when your televised consumption was dictated by four broadcast stations, and Channel 4’s move into exotic territory with football from Italy and the most popular sport in the US was an exciting development.
Having decided to back the Miami Dolphins, for no other initial reason than my mum liked their (very photogenic) quarterback Dan Marino, I followed maybe one full season closely, before gradually losing interest and switching back to rugby and the British version of football. I did still watch the gridiron occasionally, although the main highlight was often the catchy title sequence, where the team logos, encapsulated on the helmets, flashed across the screen in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it montage.
Sometimes I would press freeze on the tape – the programme was on late and had to be recorded – and study the logos more closely. My favourite helmet was the Washington Redskins, with its powerful depiction of a Native American, cosseted in a yellow and white circle, surrounded by a dark, dark red.
I was reminded of this passing childhood fad when hearing news at the weekend about a renewed campaign to rename the Redskins. When I say “renewed”, it has never gone away, and has been the subject of a federal court case as recently as 2017. The term, which dates back to the 18th century at least, was used by white people to describe the skin colour of Native Americans, as different from both their own and that of African slaves. It appears that “red” was regarded as acceptable but understandably ,according to some studies, a growing number of people now say they find the term offensive.
The campaign has been reinvigorated by the global protests and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which has already seen a number of international brands either do away with racially insensitive trademarks, or apologise for the role their forebears had in perpetuating racism and seek to make reparations. A statue of the Redskins’ founder was taken down by Washington’s local conventions and sports authority on Friday. As pressure mounts on the Redskins, some of those who want to keep the name, a grouping which includes owner Dan Snyder, have begun re-iterating their argument that it honours Native American heritage, rather than disparaging it.
To me, this argument is nonsense. I have been quick at times in my life to dismiss claims of offence taken by people, probably too quick in truth. I have always believed history is history and it shouldn’t be rewritten or hidden, nor should we judge our ancestors solely by our own values. I still do believe this. However, my prior rigid stance does not properly consider how the scars of history can resonate and cause pain in the present. Given that white immigrants were either directly or indirectly responsible for a catastrophic decline in Native American numbers between 1500 and 1900, who are these same settlers’ descendants to say that the name is an honour?
The row will drag on. There are significant commercial implications for a rebrand, as well as regulatory hurdles to jump. That said, there are also commercial opportunities, in the form of entirely new merchandise and a potential extended fan base. We might think this shouldn’t matter, but you can bet that it does.
A drive to rename the Redskins has existed in some form or another since they were first founded in Boston, 88 years ago. It has gained momentum at times and fallen away at others. Given the extraordinary collective response to racism and prejudice since George Floyd’s death on 25 May, an eventual renaming feels more likely than ever before.
There are reports that Boris Johnson will announce further lockdown easing measures tomorrow, as he finalises the exact nature of these changes today. They are likely to include which sectors can reopen from 4 July, along with a reduction in the social distancing rule, which is currently set at two metres.
Research from the Resolution Foundation suggests that lower-income households are twice as likely as richer ones to have increased their debts during lockdown. This is due to these households having fewer savings to begin with. The research also found that more than one in three 18-24 year olds are earning less than before the pandemic.
The Times is reporting that the man arrested on suspicion of murdering three people in Reading over the weekend was being monitored by MI5 last year, after they received intelligence that he was planning to travel to Syria. (£)
Business and economy
The UK government is today introducing changes to the 2002 Enterprise Act that will enable it to intervene in takeovers if a business is deemed critical to public health. The new powers will also expand the government’s ability to scrutinise takeovers more closely.
There has been a fresh twist in the missing €1.9bn of cash for German fintech Wirecard, with the company now saying that the money probably doesn’t exist. In a statement early this morning, Wirecard has announced that it is withdrawing its recent financial results and said that previous descriptions of business with third parties were “not correct”. Its chief executive has already resigned.
International steelmaker ArcelorMittal is reportedly considering selling a 260 mile railway and other infrastructure assets that service its Mont-Wright iron ore mine in Canada. This would help the company achieve its target of reducing net debt to $7bn from $9.5bn.
Columns of note
In The Times, Stephen Bush writes about the need for Boris Johnson to reform structures in the civil service, in part to increase Downing Street’s own powers. Bush compares the British model to other nations, noting that it is more difficult for the relatively small office of the prime minister to hold large Whitehall departments to account. (£)
In The Guardian, Kenan Malik argues that, despite the daily headlines of a culture war in Britain, the reality is that most of the country continues to move in a more liberal direction. He suggests that, because culture and identity now play in a bigger role in how we define ourselves politically, this leads to a tendency to overstate how divided we really are.
Source: The Times
The week ahead
International relations between the US and Russia take centre-stage today, as officials from both countries meet in Vienna for a new round of arms-control talks. China had also been invited but has declined to send a delegation. The main focus in China today is the interest rate decision by the People’s Bank of China, with most analysts predicting no movement for now.
In Scotland, the Advisory Group for Economic Recovery, commissioned by the Scottish Government to draw up plans for a post-Covid economy, will present its findings at a 12.30pm press conference.
On Tuesday, unless there is a dramatic legal development, the heavily-trailed book by former White House national security adviser John Bolton is scheduled to be published. The Trump administration is still trying to block this from happening. This same day, Moscow is set to ease its lockdown measures, with cafes, gyms and swimming pools set to open. We will also see PMI data from France, Germany, Italy and the UK.
On Wednesday the EU’s draft general budget will be presented, and Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will report on the EU’s performance in 2019. We can also expect Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to provide an update on how EU-UK negotiations are progressing. The IMF will update its economic forecasts, having already warned that there are likely to be “negative growth rates even worse than previously estimated”.
On Thursday, the Bank of England will publish a financial policy summary relating to how the UK finance sector is coping with Covid-19’s impact on the economy. The central bank will also publish how much commercial paper it has bought from companies under its Covid Corporate Financing Facility. In Europe, the monetary policy meeting of the ECB will also attract plenty of attention. There will be earnings results from Nike, Auto Trader, the Royal Mail and Premier Foods.
The week may end with some bad news from the UK car industry, which will release its monthly production data on Friday. Whether May’s numbers will beat the total from April, when just 197 cars were produced, remains to be seen.
What's happening today?
Polar C. Hldgs
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UK economic announcements
(11:00) CBI Industrial Trends Surveys
Int. economic announcements
(15:00) Existing Home Sales (US)
Source: FTSE 100, Financial Times
Did you know?
If you spent two minutes looking at every exhibit in The Hermitage museum in St Petersburg – founded by Catherine The Great in 1764 – it would take you six years to see everything.
House of Commons
Education (including Topical Questions)
Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [Lords]: Second Reading
Draft Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Fire and Rescue Functions) (Amendment) Order 2020 - Priti Patel
BBC regional politics coverage - Neil Parish
House of Lords
Insulating the UK’s existing housing stock in order to meet its net-zero emissions target by 2050 - Lord Teverson
Ensuring seaside resorts can respond to any increased demand for holidays in this country - Lord McNally
Total cost of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse to date - Lord Campbell-Savours
Encouraging companies to protect those in their supply chains from the effects of COVID-19 - Lord Harries of Pentregarth
Private Notice Question
To ask the government, in the light of the announcement made on 18 June regarding the switch in technology for the NHSX Covid-19 Test and Trace app, what is their assessment of the operational impact, the financial impact, and what lessons have been learned - Lord Clement-Jones
Fisheries Bill [HL] - Report stage (day 1) - Lord Gardiner of Kimble
Coronavirus - Lord Bethell
No chamber business scheduled