The Washington Football team recently announced a name change which has been pending for almost two years. They have finally announced that the team will adopt the name “Washington Commanders.” But why would a successful football franchise with such a rich history change its name? We will look at the franchise’s history and address the main reason for the name change.
History of the Washington Football Team.
The Washington Football Team was founded in Boston in 1932 and was initially known as the Boston Braves before changing its name to the Boston Redskins in 1933. When the franchise was relocated to Washington DC in 1937, the franchise name was updated to the Washington Redskins. The team under this name immediately had an impact in the Nation Football League (NFL), winning the championship in 1937. They won another title in 1942 and have also won three (3) Super Bowl Championships (1982, 1987, and 1991) under the Redskin name. The Redskins have also won five (5) NFC Championships and fourteen (14) Division Championships and have appeared in the play-offs on twenty-four (24) occasions.
With this rich history of performance in the NFL, the Washington Redskins have developed several loyal followers and became a source of pride and joy for many football fans all over the country. The club is now valued at over 4.2 billion dollars, making it the 5th largest franchise in the NFL. With all the history and value that the Redskins name has created over the years, it is no surprise that the franchise owner Dan Snyder remarked in 2013 that “We will never change the name of the team. We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple”. However, there has always been pushback against the use of the “Redskins” name by different groups because of the racial undertones of the name in relation to native Americans. Dan Snyder and the franchise leadership finally gave in 2020. They got rid of the famous “Redskins” moniker changing the name to the Washington Football Team while searching for an appropriate replacement moniker.
Defining moment that finally led to the name change.
There has been pushback against the Redskins name from as far back as 1972 when Native American leaders got the team to replace the offensive lyric “scalp um” in their fight song. This was followed by a petition in 1992 to have the federal government cancel the registration of the Washington Redskins trademark, saying its use was disparaging to Native Americans. There was no resolution to the petition for 17 years until it was denied in 2009.
Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, called Washington’s announcement an “end of a dark era” and said in a press release
“The NFL and the Washington franchise commercially exploited and dehumanized Native people and culturally appropriated our most sacred practices.”
What changed the franchise’s approach and got them to finally start seriously considering dropping the Redskins name was the nationwide racial justice protest in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd. Some of the franchise’s major sponsors, including Nike and FedEx, openly called for a name change, and FedEx threatened to pull its name from the team stadium if a name change was not done. The franchise, not wanting to deal with the substantial economic fallout that will accompany major sponsors pulling out and also to keep the reputation of the franchise intact, confirmed on July 13, 2020, that the Redskins name had been retired.