July 13th, 2020
By Eli Elstein
The Washington Redskins, a longstanding franchise in the NFL with 3 superbowl titles, 5 NFC championships, and 2 pre-merger NFL championships, has announced its decision to change its name for the first time since 1933. The team announced this 10 days after issuing a “review” of the name following many sponsors, including its stadium sponsor, telling the team and the world that they would no longer back an organization with a racist name.
But, why now?
The season, assuming the current global pandemic doesn’t change anything, is slated to start in 2 months with training camp just around the corner. Logo updates and jersey changes, let alone a complete rebranding, usually take place much earlier in the off-season as seen with the unusually abundant new jerseys to peruse by May this year. The LA Chargers won ‘best new jersey’ easily and the Falcons really need to step up their game, by the way.
Many Washington sports fans may have already bought their new favorite player’s jersey from the draft in the old style of uniforms which is already out-of-date. From a business perspective, this is a bad idea, right? Well, maybe not. To me, it seems like the lesser of two bad business decisions, the other being not doing anything. Dan Snyder and the Redskins decided to change their name after it became effectively impossible for them to make money. Ticket sales for the upcoming season (including food and accessory sales at the stadium) are still up in the air due to the pandemic, and companies like Nike have pulled Redskins paraphernalia from their shops. It is only a matter of time before networks don’t broadcast Redskins games and the organization is losing money by the barrel.
So, instead of selling the team, owner Dan Snyder has made the correct decision, albeit decades too late, to rebrand the team with a name from the 21st century. Honestly, I’d have taken a 20th century name a year ago instead of the 17th century one we have now, but the overwhelming flood of new energy into the Black Lives Matter movement and fighting racial injustice in a white-deifying nation has done to me what it has done to others: showing that real change needs to occur now and cannot be done halfway.
That begs the question, what will be the new name of the Washington franchise? Well there are a billion different ideas out there from good to bad to really not getting the point. Many names like the ‘Redwolves’ and the ‘Warthogs’ try to move completely away from any Native American iconography and language but keep the color scheme and some semblance of team history. I personally like these, especially the ‘Warthogs,’ where many change-hating fans can still call them the skins (get it? Like pigskins? I think it’s clever). Others want nothing to do with the ‘R’ logo or the history of the team that is entrenched in the mercilus use of the derogatory name and imagery, and it’s hard to argue with that. Some fans have been outspoken about changing the parts of the name and symbolism they deem racist (i.e. the name and Native American caricature as the logo) and change the name to the ‘Braves’ like it once was in Boston in 1932 or the ‘Warriors,’ and put a spear or ‘W’ on the helmet. This does not change anything and will not work today. It still treats Native Americans, who did not ask for it, to be used as a symbol of war between two sports teams just as animals are.
Whatever name is chosen will be the name going forward. Many outspoken fans may hate it and claim to change alliances to our neighbors in Baltimore, or something. Many will stick it out and hope the team can survive this and work towards winning the ever-winnable NFC East for a chance to play for a championship yet again. The organization will go back to making boat-loads of money and probably ask for a new stadium in DC. After that, who knows? The point is there is now significant change in the sports world, which doesn’t usually happen this quickly. The new Washington football team will be my favorite team as it always has been. The players on the new roster? They’re the same players that have been working on perfecting Ron Rivera’s new offensive and defensive systems for months. Soon, everyone will go back to asking how the change to a 4-3 will help put pressure on opposing QBs, what Chase Young’s impact will be, and how 2nd year signal caller Dwayne Haskins will fare with a full year of ups and downs behind him. In 20 years there will be kids growing up who never learned the name “Redskins” and instead have an untarnished love for their team, and hopefully hate the Cowboys.
For now, we await the new name. After that, it’s all in on the 2020 season for Washington football, as a team striving to be the next edition of the capital city’s claim for “Title Town.”
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