Washington Commanders

DC's NFL franchise finally has a new name.

DC's NFL franchise finally has a name.

After years of controversy over the Redskins moniker and two years as the generic Washington Football Team, the Dan Snyder brain trust has settled on a name the fans didn’t want. It baffled me that, given how long it was obvious that staying with “Redskins” was untenable, Snyder and company didn’t have a new name ready to go. After all, the Baltimore Ravens came up with the name, colors, and uniform design in mere weeks after relocating from Cleveland in 1996. It did, however, take two years for Bud Adams and company to settle on the Titans name after moving the Oilers from Houston to Nashville.

Apparently, though, it’s harder than it looks. ESPN‘s John Keim:

[S]tarting shortly after he was hired in August 2020, [Washington team president Jason] Wright and his team had to sift through 40,000 submissions by fans that led to 1,200 name ideas. They received one from a 6-year-old in Alaska, another from a great-grandmother whose family had watched every game for decades. Then, in April, Wright sent a letter to fans asking for their input on 30 names.

The group scoured the internet daily, gauging fan interest. Group members had dozens of one-on-one sessions with fans. They performed quantitative and qualitative surveys. They did design research. They cold-called fans. Because so many involved in the process were new to the organization, they said the goal was to understand which name resonated most with fans.

In September, the team purchased a handful of domains and trademarks of names they knew would be finalists, including Commanders. They wanted to limit, or beat, trademark squatters. Still, they ended up buying a handful of names from squatters.

By this point, the franchise had close to a dozen fully designed brands covering the finalists. Each one had a logo, a wordmark, a manifesto, its own typeface and font and apparel and gear.

Among the names they researched heavily: The Washington, D.C. Football Club and the RedWolves. There were problems with both. The DCFC was heavily considered, and they even designed logos. They wanted to play off the temporary Football Team name. But during the trademark search, they discovered there was a professional soccer team in Michigan called the Detroit City Football Club — DCFC — that had the colors burgundy and gold, same as Washington.

“If we had gone with that without doing that check, not only the name would have been in jeopardy but the burgundy and gold would have been in jeopardy,” Wright said. “They could have said we own the brand and the colors, you have to change both your name and the colors. That would have been the ultimate disaster.”

With the RedWolves, a popular choice on social media, they kept running into roadblocks. Every time they would design a wolf logo, the trademark lawyers — internal and external — would warn of issues. Often it was because the logo looked too much like others already in use. Sometimes the angle of the profile was too close to another. Finding a way to make it distinct became difficult.

They did not want a situation like the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, which announced its name change last July and soon became embroiled in a lawsuit — since settled — with a roller derby team in the city that used the same name. That situation led Wright to fret over last-minute issues that could arise even after the announcement.

Another factor: There was already a Timberwolves in the NBA, and Arkansas State is known as the Red Wolves. Washington wanted to be unique and own its brand, not worrying about any potential future conflict if it decided to alter the logo or design in any way.

“When you think of wanting to build a brand for the next 90 years or more, you don’t want to be boxed in,” said Amina Bulman, Washington’s senior vice president of corporate affairs and strategy. “You want to have room for your brand to grow and develop and not feel that around every corner you bump up with another team, whether that’s on the logo or on a song or on a [marketing] campaign.”

There were also a lot of focus groups with fans and former players. Nobody seems particularly excited by “Commanders” but few are all that upset about it, either.

The wordmarks are nice enough:

The uniforms are fairly generic, keeping the traditional team colors while adding in a seemingly-obligatory black alternate:

I’m not a fan of matching pants and jersey colors or having the team nickname on the jersey.

FILED UNDER: Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. BugManDan says:

    Nice thing about the name: when a Republican is president they can be the Commanders, when a Democrat, the Commies.

    5
  2. charon says:

    Name designed by expensive consultants and elaborate process with the aim of not offending people.

    Boring product, I expect the fans to hate it.

    2
  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It’s a little too generic for my tastes, but different strokes and all that.

  4. SKI says:

    Lots of “Commies” comments circulating in the area.

    Head-scratching thing is that they used the year in which the Super Bowl was played, not the season that it relates to. Everyone else says the 1991 team won the Super Bowl but they put 1992 on the badge. It’s just weird.

    1
  5. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    Everyone else says the 1991 team won the Super Bowl but they put 1992 on the badge. It’s just weird.

    Yes! I was going to point it out, too, but it seemed rather discursive. But, yeah, the Dallas Cowboys won in 1992 and claim that year, not the year of the Super Bowl, on all their banners. (They do claim 1993 as well but based on winning the following Super Bowl in January 1994.)

    1
  6. Kathy says:

    @charon:

    It might have been less underwhelming had they chosen it right away, rather than after two years of suspense under a slightly more generic name.

  7. Scott F. says:

    @SKI:
    For me, the crest implies they don’t expect to win very much. There’s very little room to add a new year should they ever win another Super Bowl.

    2
  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    Since Commander is a naval rank, are they operating on land as part of a joint task force, or have they been seconded to the army, under the command of the Washington Generals?

    4
  9. I’d have stuck with WFT (but that DCFC story is interesting, because I always thought they should have gone with FCW or FCDC and now I know why they didn’t).

    My guess is that in a few year people will have gotten used to it.

    1
  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I kinda wanted them to lean into the WFT even more and go with “Washington Department of Football”

    4
  11. Sleeping Dog says:

    There is a Scandinavian guitarist that turns classical music pieces into heavy metal fodder that goes by the stage name Commander in Chief, maybe she’ll sue them.

    You would think that they could have found a name that reflected the city. I thought that Guardians was an odd name, till I learned the tie in to Cleveland, then it made sense. The Senators and Nationals were taken, but both NY and StL had a football and baseball teams named the Giants and Cardinals. But how about the Congressionals or Presidents or even the Bureaucrats. Any would have reflected DC better than Commanders, how generic.

  12. Mu Yixiao says:

    Washington Red Tape
    Washington Insiders
    Washington Bureaucrats
    Washington Pundits
    Washington Ambassadors

    1
  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    Generals, Presidents, Commanders, why is it never The Sergeants, or the Second Lieutenants? Or, if you want something less martial, how about The Press Secretaries or the Special Assistants? The Interns?

    1
  14. Michael Cain says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    I wanted the Bureaucrats, and a team logo like the old Patriots hulked-up lineman, only in a suit and tie with a briefcase under his arm. Nobody wants a Washington Bureaucrat after them.

    2
  15. Gustopher says:

    They are named after the Bidens’ new dog.

    I would have preferred the Washington Willows, after the new cat, with a soft gray tabby design for the uniforms, but they probably gave up on waiting for the cat and pulled the trigger on new uniforms a month or so ago.

    2
  16. just nutha says:

    Something that’s not been done since the early days of MLB is they could have used the team color for a name. They say the color is burgundy, but I think it’s closer to maroon. The Daejeon (real) football team is the maroons, so WFT would be following a trend.

    On the negative side, Warner Brothers have turned maroon into sort of a derogative.

  17. Pete S says:

    I was hoping that they were making a big deal out of the reveal happening on Groundhog Day as a teaser that the team would be the Hogs. Many of that group went in the HOF.

  18. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Michael Cain:

    Nobody wants a Washington Bureaucrat after them.

    And the “shit-talking” almost writes itself:

    This is going on your permanent record!
    You are ON REPORT!
    (big rubber-stamping motion) Application DENIED! (e.g, missed field goal)
    Back of the line! (fumble)
    The office is OPEN!

  19. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Oooh… let me correct one of those.

    Announce: Application…
    Crowd: (rubber stamp motion) Cha-Chunk! DENIED!

  20. ptfe says:

    As I remarked to my brother, “There’s no DC-related element to it, no interesting angle that they worked, and it seems like Commanders could have been replaced with any number of synonyms to create the same effect. Which really just says the name is uninspiring.”

    Could have been worse, though. They could have gone with the Rough-Riders.

  21. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    The Washington Privates? Can’t see how that could be misconstrued.

    2
  22. just nutha says:

    @ptfe: Maybe not Saskatchewan in the CFL are the Rough Riders.

  23. Pete S says:

    @just nutha:

    We used to have 2 Rough Rider ( Ottawa as well ) teams in the CFL at the same time so I guess that means one is still open

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    As I checked the CFL website to see if Saskatchewan was still the Rough Riders I saw the Ottawa helmet and remembered that they’d been Rough Riders, too. I was just about to add Ottawa when I saw the new team mascot is the Redblacks.

  25. Richard Gardner says:

    Since my retired name includes “Commander,” I’m OFFENDED. All of us Navy Commanders were not consulted in this abasement of our title for some football team that might be in DC or MD or VA as they compete with silly tax packages and bribes for the anointed stadium. [Cough, entering a military base I get called Commander when they check my ID]
    Meanwhile, what does the DC area have to claim this team – but I’ll be very vocal if they try to get any tax benefits over the move https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/02/02/the-washington-state-commanders-move-the-nfl-to-tacoma/ [satire]

    1
  26. Ignatius J. Reilly says:

    I was hoping they’d go with the Washington Redtails, in honour of the planes flown by the Tuskegee Airmen. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a good reason they couldn’t though.

    2
  27. DrDaveT says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Washington Red Tape

    This would be awesome. Then the fans could use “roll tape” as a hyper-ironic motto with a double meaning in this media-drenched town…