In 2020 America experienced a racial reckoning spurred by the death of George Floyd that was caught on film that shocked many Americans of the cruelty of police violence.  The murder was followed by the unnecessary slayings of others like Ahmad Arberry, and Breyonna Taylor. After many protests, that included burning buildings and closed down streets. Many across the corporate world and in legislatures across the country decided it was time for change and to have some hard conversations about race. Federal Express who is the long-time stadium name sake of the Washington’s football franchise had finally had enough as they went to ownership and said that if they did not change the team’s long-time name “Redskins” that they would pull their stadium sponsorship. Fed Ex was followed by Nike, Walmart, and Amazon with those other outlets threatening to end their apparel/retail deals that they had with the team. So, in the summer of 2020 the team decided to retire its Redskin Moniker, and after a week or so they came up with a temporary name the Washington Football Team that the team would play under until a new identity was created. In the background of the name change were sexual harassment accusations that still haunt the team until this day.  But that’s another story. The team was in need an identity change, a restart, and so the search for a new name began in earnest.  A large part of the search was the NFL’s first and only African American Team President, Jason Wright.  Wright would become the face of the team’s non-football management, and the face and voice of the search for a new identity and brand. The Team put out “Making the Brand” videos to guide fans and the media the process.  There were over 40,000 fan submissions for the name change.  Early on the name Warriors which was a fan favorite was ruled out because of Native American imagery. There were lists, fan focus groups, and another of the early favorites was Redwolves or some machination of the word Wolves.  In the fourth Making the Brand video it was concluded that because trademarking and legal rights issues to that name that it was dropped from the running. But also, in that fourth video the fans were alerted to the day that the new brand identity would be brought to life which was February 2nd. Or as the PR campaign put it 2-2-22. The brand identity was to be revealed on the Today show at the 8 o’clock hour. There was some criticism that a show that emanated from New York would be doing the reveal, or that it was done nationally instead of with a local station. The actual name reveal happened broadcasting from Fed Ex Field the Home of the Washington Football Franchise.  The people on screen for the reveal were Craig Melvin an NBC News Today show anchor who is a Washington fan ambassador, Jason Wright Team President, Doug Williams who works in the organization for Jason Wright. And more important, he was the first African American Quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and an active player, Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. Doug Williams who means a lot to the city and to the community actually made the reveal telling Melvin, “We are the Commanders.”   Many folks thought that was anticlimactic after months and months of buildup. But there was also an accompanying twitter video that included the history of the team and ended with a rousing video that included Chase Young wearing a white Commanders Jersey, Terry McLaurin wearing a burgundy jersey, and Jonathan Allen wearing a black jersey. After carrying a dictionary defined racially insensitive name for over eighty years, a new era has begun in Washington.

Leave a comment