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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Washington, D.C.'s football team has been under increasing criticism for keeping an old team name that's a racial epithet. I usually don't say it. I will now - for the purposes of information. The Washington Redskins. That name's been hotly debated, criticized for being a racial slur, but defended by the team's owners as actually being a kind of tribute to Native Americans.

As the moral argument goes on, there's another question. How much is a team name worth in modern sports? We're joined now by Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor at Forbes Magazine. Thanks very much for being with us.

KURT BADENHAUSEN: Thanks for having me on today.

SIMON: Your magazine consistently puts the Washington franchise as one of the most valuable in the world, even though they lose so much they're often called the Deadskins. What makes them so valuable?

BADENHAUSEN: It's really the revenue that the team generates. By our count they're the third-most valuable franchise in the NFL, worth $1.6 billion and the eighth-most valuable franchise in the world behind a handful of soccer clubs as well as teams like the Yankees and Dodgers. And it's really, it's people coming to the stadium, sponsorship revenues are among the highest in the NFL. And that's what's really driving the Redskins' value.

SIMON: Is there any reason to think that the name enhances the value?

BADENHAUSEN: I don't think it enhances the value. We assign a value to the brands of the various teams and there the Redskins are the third-most valuable too, behind the Cowboys and Patriots, with a brand worth $131 million. That is really wrapped up in the history of the franchise as well as the premium that tickets, as well as rights fees for TV and radio command for the Redskins.

SIMON: Would the Redskins make even more money if they changed the name and logo to something like the Washington Shutdown, and forced millions of fans to buy new sweatshirts and puffy fingers?

BADENHAUSEN: It's really not a big financial move for the Redskins in terms of adding revenue because merchandize revenue that is bought outside of the stadium is split amongst the NFL teams evenly, 32 ways. So if you walk into a Modell's and buy a Redskins jersey, they get 1/32nd of that.

SIMON: Is there anything to be learned from Washington, D.C.'s professional basketball team? It used to be the Bullets, and Abe Pollin and the owner thought that's a little awkward with the murder rate so high, so they changed the name to Wizards. They still lose, but did it enhance the franchise or not?

BADENHAUSEN: I don't think it enhanced the franchise and it didn't hurt the franchise. If the Redskins are going to go ahead and change the name, you're going to have some hardcore fans that are going to be put off by the situation. But are those guys not going to go the stadium anymore? I don't think the Redskin name is driving any of the value of the franchise.

SIMON: Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor at Forbes Magazine. Thanks so much.

BADENHAUSEN: Thanks for having me on.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE REDSKINS SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Hail to the Redskins, hail to victory. Braves on the warpath fight for old D.C.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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