The Washington Redskins announced on July 3 that they will undergo a “thorough review” of their name and explore a possible rebrand.
The announcement came one day after Nike took down all Washington Redskins merchandise from its online store. Merchandise for the other 31 NFL teams still remained. FedEx, who paid $250 million for the naming rights to the Redskins’ stadium in Laurel, Md., also asked the Redskins to consider changing the name to something that isn’t controversial. Frederick Smith, President and CEO of FedEx Corp., also owns a minority stake in the Redskins.
FedEx and Nike weren’t the only organizations attempting to pressure the Redskins to rebrand. Certain sports outlets, most notably Bleacher Report, began referring to the Redskins as the “Washington football team” late in the evening on July 2, when it reported that Nike had taken merchandise down from its online store.
“In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name. This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks,” the Redskins said in a statement.
Over the past several years, people have pleaded, begged and even protested for the franchise to change its team name. The team took on the now-controversial name in 1933, when then-owner George Preston Marshall changed the team’s name from the Boston Braves to the Boston Redskins. The franchise recently removed his statue from FedEx Field and took down a memorial dedicated to him.
Activism geared towards changing the name began in 1968, when the National Congress of American Indians launched a campaign to remove “negative and harmful stereotypes” of Indigenous American imagery from media and pop culture. Since then, Indigenous Americans, media personalities, journalists, and common citizens have protested the name and demanded it be changed. If the Redskins’ statement is any indication, this demand may finally be met.
But if the Redskins do decide to rebrand, what would they choose? This article takes a look at some possible suggestions. With the exception of the first suggestion, these are solely ideas from the author of this piece. This is not meant to persuade or start any new controversies.
1. Washington Red Tails
A Reddit user suggested this change as a new name for the team. The “Red Tails” name is a nod to the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black aviators in the U.S. military, who flew missions over Europe and North Africa during World War II. These Black pilots fought in World War II at a time when the U.S. military was still segregated.
In 1938, then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared that he was expanding the civilian pilot program. The Tuskegee Airmen, who got their name while training at Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama, went on to fly more than 15,000 missions, earning 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. Their service also led to the eventual integration of the military.
Now this would be an epic name change. A formation of P-51 Mustangs roaring over the stadium before kickoff would be incredible. Victory through air power! Hail to the Redtails! pic.twitter.com/9k2iugoqgI
— Dr. Frank Blazich, Jr. (@MilHistCurator) July 3, 2020
Two arguments can be made here: one for and one against. One argument is that the Red Tails made significant contributions during World War II, fighting, killing and even dying for the United States. The Tuskegee Airmen should be celebrated along with all other World War II heroes.
The other argument is that the Red Tails are not unique to Washington, D.C. They were trained in Alabama. If Washington’s football team is looking for a name that can get the entire nation on its side, Red Tails is a good bet. If owner Dan Snyder wants to rebrand to something that is recognized by the local fanbase, this might not be it.
2. Washington Colonials
Yes, this name sounds rather generic, and its already taken by George Washington University, also located in Washington, D.C. The name still could work, however. Washington, D.C. takes up land in two states that were two of the original 13 colonies. Visit the district and you’ll find plenty of history from America’s revolutionary period. It’s also the nation’s capital.
The likelihood of this might not be all that strong. The name is already taken by a local university, as mentioned above. On top of that, the new rebrand could be met with controversy as it points to a time when slavery existed, a painful part of America’s history that various groups and individuals are trying to erase. Also, as stated above, the name is pretty generic.
3. Washington Defenders
Unlike the DC Defenders of the now-nonexistent XFL, this Washington football team isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The team has a lease with FedEx Field until 2027, and the franchise still has a healthy fanbase despite results from past seasons.
If the team were to go with Defenders, pushback would likely be small. Is it a ripoff of a team that no longer exists? Sure. Did the original Defenders stick around long enough to build any kind of a presence in Washington? Nope.
Other than the name not being unique, it’s difficult to see how it wouldn’t work. It isn’t offensive. It isn’t controversial. If the owners of the original DC Defenders would be required to release that name, it shouldn’t be a difficult process.
4. Washington Federalists
Going with the name “Federalists” would be a nod to America’s Founders, and particulary Alexander Hamilton, who started the Federalist Party, the first political party in the U.S. This possibly could be a polarizing name, just like the Redskins name. Navigating political discourse is like a minefield at times.
This would be, however, another nod to history. Hamilton served in the American Revolution as an aide to George Washington. When Washington was elected the first president, he nominated Hamilton as his Treasury Secretary. Also, you may have heard of a popular Broadway musical titled “Hamilton.”
The argument against this is the political history behind the name. This is a political party that hasn’t existed for nearly two centuries, however. The author is going with Washington Federalists because Washington Hamiltons just doesn’t have that ring to it like Federalists.
5. Washington Heroes
Take a walk through the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and you’ll find several memorials dedicated service members who fought in past wars. The World War II Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and Korea Memorial can all be seen, among others. Arlington Cemetery and the Marine Corps Memorial are located nearby in Virginia.
Like Colonials, the name Heroes sounds rather generic. It would be a safe change, however, which is what the current Washington front office can only hope for when they do decide to rebrand. It’s another nod to history and it bears the potential to honor those who have gone abroad for the country. Also, the logo possibilities could be endless.
As of now, the front office has said that it is exploring a name change. Given the power of media and public opinion, Snyder and co. may want to have something ready for the 2021 season, unless the NFL is willing to waive its rule about teams changing names. Such a change would require league approval, and then a speedy and complete overhaul of the franchise would be required. Training camp is only a few weeks away, but the clock is ticking for a change in 2021.