After years of stubborn refusal, the Washington Redskins are no more. With public pressure mounting, Dan Snyder finally retired his franchise’s outdated and offensive name. Finding a new identity, however, is the next challenge.
While there’s plenty that goes into any team’s branding efforts, Washington’s path to a new name may have gotten a bit easier. If nothing else, Dan Snyder will save a few bucks in the process.
The Washington Redskins have been confined to the history books
For most North American sports fans, the Washington Redskins have always been a part of the NFL landscape. That identity, however, has officially been confined to the history books.
When the franchise’s life began, it was neither based in Washington, D.C. nor called the Redskins. In 1932, the club kicked off its first season as the Boston Braves; since there was a baseball team sporting the same name, however, they quickly rebranded at the Redskins. They moved to the nation’s capital in 1937 and brought their name south with them.
While the team’s name probably didn’t raise too many eyebrows in the days before World War II, public sentiment eventually began to change. Beyond the fact that “redskin” is a slur, there’s also the issue of “mascotting.” Most teams are named after animals or objects. By branding an organization as the Redskins and using a Native American head as the logo, you’re reducing human beings to a lesser status; Native Americans are real people, not an object representing your favorite sports team.
Although owner Dan Snyder had previously defended the team’s name, he eventually caved to commercial pressure. With brands like Amazon, Fed-Ex, and Nike taking a stand, the football team officially retired their previous identity.
The path to a new name may have gotten easier
Even in the best of times, rebranding a franchise isn’t easy. The Washington football team, however, has some additional challenges.
While there has been some speculation around the club’s new name, many of those monikers had already been trademarked. In theory, that would put Dan Snyder and company in a bind; they could either pay the trademark’s holder a sizable sum or move on and try to find another identity. Now, it seems like some of those identities will be up for grabs.
According to TMZ Sports, Martin McCaulay is willing to give the NFL free rein to use any of his trademarked names, which include the “Washington Monuments, Americans, Veterans, Red-Tailed Hawks, Federals and more.” He’s even reached out to the NFL and Dan Snyder, but hasn’t heard back.
“[Attorney Darren Heitner] wrote a letter to Mr. Snyder with my offer, making it clear that I was trying to facilitate the name change,” McCaulay explained. “I do not want to be an obstacle. Please. If you want one of Mr. McCaulay’s trademarks, or me, ‘trademark hog,’ as I like to go by, then just let us know what does he need to do to get out of your way?”
What name will the former Washington Redskins pick?
On paper, McCaulay’s offer should make life a bit easier for Dan Synder, Ron Rivera, and the rest of the Washington organization. But, even with his standing offer, it’s not clear what name the franchise will pick.
From a pure convenience perspective, the favorite seems to be the Washington Warriors. While it’s not the most inspired choice and still raises some potential issues—changing from the Redskins to the Warriors and replacing the Native American head logo with an arrowhead would keep the same mascotting issues, albeit with a prettier exterior—it would be a comparatively quick and easy rebrand.
There has also been chatter around the Washington Red Tails, which would pay homage to the Tuskegee Airmen. While Tuskegee Airmen Inc. has expressed a willingness to work with the NFL, some specific veterans have voiced concerns about using their unit as the basis for a sports nickname. There’s also been speculation around the Red Wolves.
Regardless of what happens in the coming weeks, though, the Washington NFL team will no longer be known as the Redskins. That, in of itself, is a long-overdue victory.