Washington Redskins is one of the NFL oldest and most-storied franchises. This football team was founded in 1932 but was renamed the Redskins in 1933. With the history behind this team, is it fair to rebrand this teams?
As reported by Wall Street Journal on June 23rd, 2020 by Louise Radnofsky and Andrew Beaton.
WASHINGTON—The National Football League’s intensified efforts to show its social consciousness during a time of reckoning over systemic racism have bypassed one glaring instance: the racial slur that one of its teams uses for a name.
The name of Washington’s team, owned by Dan Snyder, has long been the hardest icon to topple in sports, even as national and corporate pangs of conscience have taken out Aunt Jemima, “Gone With the Wind,” Confederate flags in Nascar and Confederate statues in cities.
The same nationwide movement prompted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to deliver the league’s most strident anti-racist message after a group of the game’s most prominent players called out the league to do more.
But that statement has made it more difficult to reconcile its silence over one issue it can control. The league is amplifying messages to combat racial injustice amid calls that one of the game’s most prominent franchises employs a derogatory nickname for American Indians and an eyebrow-raising image on its logo.
“One wonders if Dan Snyder can hold out much longer, in the face of what looks as if it is a revolutionary change in what people will anymore tolerate,” said Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington, D.C.’s non-voting delegate in Congress. “I understand that the word ‘Redskins’ is not about an African-American, but it is equally racist and equally opposed by African-Americans.”
It’s the one issue nobody associated with the NFL is willing to speak publicly about these days. Snyder and the NFL declined to comment for this article. The league and Goodell have in the past vigorously defended the name.
And the team’s most prominent corporate sponsors— FedEx, Bank of America, Bud Light and Pepsi—didn’t comment when asked how they felt about associating their brands with the name in this climate.
But privately, people inside the game say the name change must occur, though they also continued to say it’s up to Snyder, who’s vowed never to change it.
His continued refusal to do so could also stymie the team’s efforts for a new stadium, which Washington, D.C., lawmakers said in interviews they will refuse to permit back in the city under the current name. (The team’s current stadium is in Maryland.) It could also stoke unrest among the league’s activist players, one of whom already brought up the issue recently on social media.
“It needs to happen,” said one high-ranking league executive, who did not want to be identified discussing another team’s business.
Even beyond the name, racism in the team’s past has been prominent in the past week. A monument to former owner George Preston Marshall, who long blocked the team from signing black players, came down early Friday morning outside the team’s former home at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium—not at the hands of protesters, but rather Washington’s convention and sports authority, which does business as Events DC.
The authority said in a statement that “removing this statue is a small and an overdue step on the road to lasting equality and justice…Allowing the memorial to remain on the RFK Campus goes against Events DC’s values of inclusion and equality and is a disturbing symbol to many in the city we serve.”
The statue had earlier been daubed with “Change the Name.” Afterward, the team stripped George Preston Marshall’s name from the lower bowl of its current stadium in Landover, Md. and renamed it after Bobby Mitchell, the franchise’s first black player, whose number they also retired.
Washington was the last NFL team to integrate in 1962—and only did so after the Interior Secretary at the time, Stewart Udall, threatened Marshall by telling him he would revoke the lease on the D.C. stadium.
Snyder has held firm despite being privately disparaged by executives, fiercely hated by his team’s fans and openly sneered at by the elected officials of the city whose name is the only portion of the team’s name they’ll say—when they’re not calling it “that R-word.”
It isn’t clear what else it would take for him to change his mind about it. He’s also had help.ork
In the past, the NFL attempted to defend the name. In 2018, Goodell pointed to a Washington Post poll about the team name he described as “overwhelmingly positive” in suggesting that Native Americans don’t find the name offensive. The poll showed nine in 10 Native Americans don’t see the name in a negative way. In a 2013 letter to Congress, the commissioner described the name as a “unifying force.”
More recent data suggests past research underestimated Native Americans’ opposition to the name. One study in the past year showed 49% of Native Americans were offended by it, and that climbed to 67% among people who strongly identified as Native American.
The Supreme Court in 2017 ruled that the government couldn’t reject trademarks that might be considered disparaging or offensive, boosting the team in its effort to save its trademarks after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled them in 2014 on the grounds that they disparaged Native Americans.
The hometown Washington Post, meanwhile, has continued to use the name in its reporting (as has The Wall Street Journal). On Friday, however, the Post editorial board published a call to “Change the name of the Washington NFL team. Now.”
Many Washington, D.C. officials say they’re at a loss over what more they could do to get a new name. “The NFL, the league, needs to just say, either you do this or you’re no longer going to be able to play in this league,” said David Grosso, a council member who has led the push to scrap the name for years. “I think our power is no greater than anyone else in this effort… the NFL though, are the ones that have the absolute power to force Dan Snyder to do it.”
At this point, a majority of the D.C. City Council say they’re opposed to moving the team’s stadium back into the District of Columbia and out of FedEx Field in Landover. Some, such as at-large council member Robert White, had economic concerns as well as specific objections to Snyder and the name.
Others suggested they’d flip their vote and authorize funds necessary for the move to take place, in exchange for a new name.
“The name of the Washington football team is unquestionably racist, derogatory, and should be changed,” said Brooke Pinto, who recently won a special election to fill a vacant seat, in an email. “The only way I will consider a potential stadium relocation of the Washington football team back to D.C. is if they change their mascot to something that brings our city together with pride instead of maintaining an offensive stereotype of a single race that embarrasses us.”
Rebranding is not cheap, especially for a NFL teams. This is only the beginning of a new decade for the Washington Redskins. When a change happens, fans are usually not happy about the decision.
As reported by Wall Street Journal on July 6th, 2020 by Jason Gay.
“The Washington Sadness Machine.”
Time to make it official. Let’s do this.
The Washington Sadness Machine.
Come on. It works. You smiled. The dog smiled. The dog hasn’t smiled in days! (You try being a dog around the Fourth of July. All that Ka-BOOM? It’s a nightmare.)
Don’t you want a Washington Sadness Machine T-shirt, maybe with the sleeves removed to show off your bulging quarantine muscles? What about one of those chip & dip helmets—fill it up with pretzels, Cheetos or dried crickets, and put it right there proudly in the TV room?
Hey, pass me the Washington Sadness Machine helmet bowl, wouldja? Mmmm, crickets.
The full name is “Dan Snyder’s Washington Sadness Machine,” a homage to this woebegone football club’s owner, who has presided over two playoff wins since purchasing it 21 years ago—a dismal stretch for a formerly title-hoarding franchise.
But “Dan Snyder’s Washington Sadness Machine” is a mouthful. I imagine most folks will shorten it to “the Sadness Machine.”
Hey, the Sadness Machine has a big game coming up against Dallas!
Can you believe the Sadness Machine has been eliminated from the playoffs? It’s August!
I’ll give you two Sadness Machine tickets for that tuna sandwich. OK, four tickets for half of a tuna sandwich.
You know the reason for the change. The old name for the Washington football team is presumed to be on its way out, because it’s terrible. It’s been terrible forever, but this forlorn franchise has held on to it, hiding behind tradition and stubbornness in declining to do the right thing.
Now the right thing is coming for them, whether they like it or not.
The ground is shifting, fast—that old name looks awfully backward at a time when racism, privilege and power are getting bluntly examined in American life. In the past, the name was defended as a harmless relic, with polls testifying to its alleged inoffensiveness, but really, all the rationalizing was ridiculous.
It’s got to go. The NFL knows this. My old friends who grew up with Sundays at RFK; who learned the “Hail” fight song before “Happy Birthday”; who pray to the Cathedral of Riggo; who are grieving the recent death of “Hogs” mastermind Joe Bugel; who still send each other clips of Darrell Green chase-down tackles—they, too, know it’s got to go.
FedEx was likely the hammer. When FedEx—the team’s lucrative stadium sponsor—agreed the name needed to change, that was that. Pepsi said they’re on board. Bank of America, too. Now, the Washington Post is reporting that Snyder’s minority partners, who own 40% of the club, are looking to sell.
The money’s talking, and if you follow the NFL, you know that more than anything else, the NFL is about the money.
The team says it is giving the current name a “thorough review,” but what on earth is there to review? The NFL is standing at the club’s bedside, holding its hand. The Journal’s ace football writer Andrew Beaton, citing two sources close to the situation, reports that the change will likely be made before the 2020 season.
Sure, there will be agitation. There always is. There will be the usual huffing about political correctness and “virtue signaling” and the end of the world as we know it, but this isn’t politics, or “virtue signaling,” or the end of the world as we know it. This isn’t a “both-sides” debate; this isn’t some cynical argument about the freedom of expression.
This is acknowledging the obvious. It’s got to go. It should have been gone a long time ago.
Besides, a new name will be smart business. It won’t matter if the team decides to rebrand as the “Washington Red Tails” (a tribute to the iconic Tuskegee airmen) or the “Washington Warriors” or the “Washington Filibusters” or the “Washington Congresspeople Being Evasive on Sunday Morning Talk Shows You Always Pay Half Attention To While You Are Eating Pancakes and Looking at Your Phone.” Any change will mean a fresh logo and a lot of new gear (umbrellas! pajamas!) for fans to buy.
By all means, keep the burgundy and gold.
If a consensus can’t be reached, feel free to borrow The Washington Sadness Machine (itself a mild nod to the late D.C. sportscaster George Michael and his fabulous Sports Machine highlight show.) We’ve got a handsome helmet design for you right here. Maybe Sadness Machine can be a placeholder for a season, until they figure out a permanent name.
If you think calling the team the “Sadness Machine” is a little too harsh, ask yourself this: Have you talked to a Washington, D.C. football fan at any point over the last two decades?
It’s been a tough run, especially if they remember the glory days. On Sundays, they usually just stare into the distance and moan.
Why not capitalize on that ineptitude? Who wouldn’t want a Washington Sadness Machine winter hat with a pom-pom on top? A Sadness Machine beach towel? A Sadness Machine cupholder? A bumper sticker that reads: THIS CAR PULLS OVER EVERY SEVEN MILES TO SOB UNCONTROLLABLY ABOUT THE STATE OF THE WASHINGTON SADNESS MACHINE.
Here’s the bottom line: Teams change names. Sometimes for trivial reasons, sometimes for big reasons. And usually what happens is that a bunch of people get upset, say they are never going to watch their favorite club again, maybe even cancel their tickets or throw a jersey over a grill, and then, about two years later, everyone but a few holdouts with grilled jerseys have completely forgotten about it, and the rest of the planet has moved on.
And that’s what will happen here.
Embrace the Sadness Machine! The time has come.
The Washington Redskins held on to their name for one reason: tradition. How will this benefit the football team in the long run?
Additional Brand Naming Resources
Brand Naming for Political Correctness (2 of 3) (IDeas BIG)
Naming Your Brand: 10 Questions To Ask (IDeas BIG)