Washington NFL Team to Change Name

"Redskins" no more.

Via WaPo: Redskins to retire team name Monday; new name to be revealed later:

The decision to change the nearly 87-year-old team name comes amid mounting pressure on the franchise from corporate sponsors and the broader nationwide discussion of race.

Snyder had previously said he would never change the controversial Redskins name, which is considered to be a slur against Native Americans. But Rivera said he and Snyder began discussing a possible change near the end of May. On July 2, FedEx — one of the franchise’s top sponsors and the holder of its stadium’s naming rights — released a statement asking the team to change its name, and it sent a letter to Snyder last week saying it would take the company’s name off FedEx Field if he did not change the team name. Other sponsors, including PepsiCo, Nike and Bank of America, also made similar demands.

Like NASCAR’s banning of the Confederate battle flag, mass protests against CSA memorials, and serious talk on Capitol Hill about renaming bases named for CSA military officers, this is another example of increased sensitivity to the racial implications of many symbols which permeate US culture.

Controversy over the name is long-standing and this move is simply part of a broader cultural moment that was ignited by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the street protests that emerged across the country (indeed, globally).

No word yet on the new team name.

FILED UNDER: Sports, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. sam says:

    I’ve read that ‘Red Tails’ is being considered. That would be pretty good, I think.

    5
  2. Kylopod says:

    I heard that they’re changing it to the “DC Redskins.”

    https://sports.theonion.com/washington-redskins-change-their-name-to-the-d-c-redsk-1819575691

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  3. MarkedMan says:

    My old high school was the Marist Redskins. They realized a quarter of a century ago that was demeaning, despite the fact that there was no major outcry (probably because the First Nation representation in the Chicago South Side suburbs is pretty small.) The Marist Brothers, faculty and alumni just realized it was the right thing to do. It took a couple of years to settle on a name but in that intervening time they just referred to themselves as Marist Football, or Marist Basketball, etc. In 1997 they became the Marist Redhawks and… well, essentially “and nothing”. As far as I know there was some muttering from the alumni but the students adapted to the new name just fine.

    Dan Snyder is a piece of work.

    3
  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @sam: I heard “Redwolves” somewhere.

  5. a country lawyer says:

    I think an appropriate name would be Red Tails and the mascot a red tailed hawk. A diving hawk logo could be similar to the current one for continuity. Red Tails is also the un-official title if the Tuskegee Airmen. The season opener would be highlighted by a flyover of P-51’s in the red tailed color scheme of the squadron.

    5
  6. James Joyner says:

    There are reports from CNN and elsewhere that the Cleveland Indians are “considering” following suit; they will. Thus far, the Atlanta Braves say they’re keeping their name but are “considering” completely banning the tomahawk chop; they will.

    I gather that the team has already landed on a preferred nickname but there are issues with trademarks that need to be resolved ahead of time. Given the NFL’s deep pockets, I don’t think they’ll have any trouble buying out any other rightsholder.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    @a country lawyer:
    Hmm, I have a connection to the ‘Red Tails’ having long ago written a short kid bio of General Benjamin David Jr. commander of the Red Tails. And a redtail hawk figures prominently throughout Animorphs. So…

    …Nope. Still not enough to make me care about football.

    4
  8. SKI says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Some really nice fan art of logos/helmets circulating for this one.

  9. Jim Brown 32 says:

    I would be convince that I’m no longer on the planet Earth should the red tails of the Tuskegee airman flavor be selected. I am partial to the Tuskegee airman for obvious reasons. I have met several in my life…truly inspiring men.

    I get why this is happening. But every strand of evidence that I have seen shows conflicting evidence to the term is truly demeaning to Native Americans writ large.

    Beyond that however, I believe whether the term is demeaning or not is irrelevant. Marginalized peoples and cultures deserve to not be caricatured for entertainment purposes. It is hard enough to get respect in credibility in the white man’s world without having to fight negative imagery and stereotypes that live in their heads. Having been a professional military man I respect Native Americans as great Warriors overwhelmed by a superior force–they deserve more fitting remembrance than as team mascots.

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  10. sam says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Where I live there are a lot of Apache, and I’ve not heard anyone suggest renaming the helicopter.

    3
  11. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    completely banning the tomahawk chop…

    Just out of curiosity, how would that work? Ejecting people that did it? Seat licenses kinda get in the way of ejecting fans for poor behavior already…

    I lived in Atlanta for three years in the early 90’s and went to a few Braves games. First, it was pretty obvious that minorities were not welcome. Despite being surrounded by black neighborhoods there was no way to walk to the stadium. That was not an accident. Add to it that black neighborhoods were destroyed to build that stadium (since replaced) and put three federal highways through the heart of the city. Also very deliberate choices.

    Second, it was also obvious that the vast majority of seats were occupied by corporate ticket holders. The Braves were up? Sure, cheer for them! The other team is up? Who cares! Half the stadium weren’t from Atlanta originally and had no real stakes there.

    And finally, that Tomahawk Chop thing was just weird and creepy. Given the history there, tens of thousands of half drunk white people chanting gave me the willies.

    2
  12. Sleeping Dog says:

    About time.

    Indians, Braves, don’t forget about the KC Chiefs.

  13. Tyrell says:

    @a country lawyer: It sounds like the name of a tribe.
    Hopefully they will now focus on winning.

  14. James Joyner says:

    @sam: The Army has, going back to the Vietnam era, named almost all of its helicopters after native tribes (Iroquois, Apache, Blackhawk, Kiowa, Chinook etc.). But they did so with express permission after consultation.

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  15. sam says:

    @James Joyner:

    I didn’t know about the permission, James. And it is good to know.

    2
  16. James Joyner says:

    @sam: Indeed, when the attack version of the UH-1 Iroquois (which most actually call the “Huey”), the AH-1, was named the Cobra, the Army actually got complaints from Native leaders that they didn’t pick a tribal name. They’ve not broken from tradition since.

    1
  17. PoliticalBiker says:

    I keep wondering how Indian Motorcycle has stayed off the radar in this debate.

  18. I have some difficulty in understanding the problem of “Cleveland Indians”, “Atlanta Braves ” or ” KC Chiefs” – “Indians”, “Braves” or “Chiefs” are not racial slurs, I think.

    1
  19. grumpy realist says:

    @Miguel Madeira: The complaints I’ve heard about the Cleveland Indians hasn’t been about the name, but the cartoony Indian chief mascot they use.

    4
  20. @Miguel Madeira: I think there is an argument to be made on the “Indians” in terms Native Americans not being Indians, and therefore a reflection of colonialism and such.

    I concur that Braves and Chiefs are not slurs, although the Tomahawk Chops has to go.

    3
  21. Mister Bluster says:

    Washington Weasels

  22. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I make no guess as to whether Native Americans consider Braves or Chiefs to be slurs or disrespectful in the context of a bunch of non-Native-American using them for their football teams.

    Applying the rule of “try it with the Jews and see if it sounds anti-Semitic or otherwise wrong…”

    The Kansas City Rabbis or the Atlanta Menorahs sound tacky. Not an exact match, but close enough to give pause. Brooklyn Hasidim? Still bad.

    1
  23. Sleeping Dog says:

    @grumpy realist:

    The Cleveland baseball team dispatched the cartoon mascot that was on the caps for a looonnngg time, before last season. My understanding that was the primary objection of those protesting the use of Native American imagery.

    Regarding Indian motorcycles? With Polaris based in Minnesota, those discussions are on going with the tribes and that the company is vetting use of imagery and names with tribal representatives. Though if I were a Polaris exec, I’d keep an eye out for winds of change, the politics in the Native American community is nothing if not volatile.

  24. Kylopod says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think there is an argument to be made on the “Indians” in terms Native Americans not being Indians, and therefore a reflection of colonialism and such.

    I think it’s more than that. Even if you called them the Cleveland Native Americans, it would still sound problematic, maybe because of a sense that it’s objectifying Native Americans.

    @Gustopher:

    Applying the rule of “try it with the Jews and see if it sounds anti-Semitic or otherwise wrong…”

    The Kansas City Rabbis or the Atlanta Menorahs sound tacky. Not an exact match, but close enough to give pause. Brooklyn Hasidim? Still bad.

    Even if you used a term like the New York Jews, it would be problematic. Not because “Jews” is an offensive term, but because, again, it’s objectifying the group. People don’t normally go around naming teams after specific racial, ethnic, or religious groups. You don’t hear of teams called the Oklahoma Irishmen, or the Jersey Sicilians–let alone the Newark Wops. The fact that it’s only done to Native Americans is a reflection of how they’ve been treated in our culture.

    Like everything else, it’s heavily dependent on context. Kinky Friedman had a band called the Texas Jewboys (a play on the band Bob Willis and the Texas Playboys), and while he did have a certain irreverence in his act, the fact that he was obviously Jewish himself blunted any possible offense it might have caused. If Tim McGraw created a group called the Tennessee Jewboys, that would sound pretty bad. But when Friedman did it, it was almost cute.

    4
  25. dazedandconfused says:

    A name that would spawn abject terror in the hearts of opposing NFL players: “The IRS”.

    2
  26. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kylopod:

    “Oklahoma Irishmen” But we do have the Boston Celtics and I’ve said the Irish will riot if that were to change. The issue is does the community from whom the name is adopted, view it as demeaning.

    2
  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @SKI: That’s exactly what the person I heard it from said.

  28. JohnMcC says:

    A prediction: If a focus group is used, the name is NOT going to resurrect the Washington Senators.

  29. Kathy says:

    IMO, a team’s nickname ought to reflect something particular to the city/region they represent, or allude to an attribute desired or required in their sport.

    2
  30. a country lawyer says:

    It seems a “squatter” trademarked the name red tailed hawks and a few others a few years ago in anticipation of a name change.

  31. Moosebreath says:

    @Kylopod:

    ” You don’t hear of teams called the Oklahoma Irishmen, or the Jersey Sicilians–let alone the Newark Wops.”

    The Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks (short for Knickerbockers, which originally referred to the Dutch residents of Manhattan after it became a British colony) might disagree. Though as @Sleeping Dog: pointed out, the position of the community affected should be strongly considered.

    1
  32. @Gustopher:

    Applying the rule of “try it with the Jews and see if it sounds anti-Semitic or otherwise wrong…”

    @Kylopod:

    I think it’s more than that. Even if you called them the Cleveland Native Americans, it would still sound problematic, maybe because of a sense that it’s objectifying Native Americans.

    I agree. I would put “Indians” in a different category than “Braves” and “Chiefs.”

    All I know for sure is the “Redskins” is objectively more problematic than “Chiefs.”

    2
  33. Joe says:

    While I agree, Gustopher, that the Atlanta Menorahs sounds pretty strange, I could get behind Minneapolis Maccabees. I have spent my whole life around Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans (and I am 100% Irish). While I agree context is everything and that buy-in from the group whose name is used is also necessary, it also needs to make sense.

    I would also refer anyone to Matal v. Tam, the recent Supreme case allowing the Asian American band to register “The Slants” as their service mark.

    1
  34. wr says:

    @Kathy: “IMO, a team’s nickname ought to reflect something particular to the city/region they represent.”

    The Washington Stateless?
    The Washington Unrepresented?
    The Washington Second-Class Citizens?
    Or maybe just The Washington Shit-On

    2
  35. Kylopod says:

    I accidentally put this comment in the Open Thread, intending it for here:

    TV Tropes has a category called “Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales.” It refers to those instances when members of a group appear to embrace something in our culture that would seem to be stereotypical and insulting to them.

    https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MexicansLoveSpeedyGonzales

  36. Monala says:

    @Kylopod: Off-topic, but I saw another Onion article on your linked page: “Teen Who Died From Coronavirus Probably Had Undiagnosed Old Age.”

  37. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    I gather that the team has already landed on a preferred nickname but there are issues with trademarks that need to be resolved ahead of time.

    “Rednecks” is taken?

  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog: KC is easy. They become the “Chefs” and their helmets feature a white toque. 😀

    @Gustopher: The Atlanta Dreidels?

    3
  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: The Washington Lobbyists. Who in DC doesn’t want to work on K Street?

    1
  40. An Interested Party says:

    I heard “Redwolves” somewhere.

    Indeed

  41. Tyrell says:

    @James Joyner: I heard that the Seminole leaders made some kind of financial deal with Florida State University some time ago to use their name.
    Coach Rivera is a wise choice; Snyder gets something right. Hopefully, he will restore this team to its former glory.
    Will we now start hearing complaints from the animal rights people about team names demeaning animals?
    Why could they not have just shortened the name to Washington Reds?

  42. de stijl says:

    In any squad you need a tank / damage dealer, a mage, a rogue, and a healer / buffer. It is canon.

    Washington already has The Wizards so that covers the Mage slot. Rename the NFL team the Tanks, the Nationals (dumb ass name anyway) as the Rogues, the MLS team as the Protectors.

    I may have played too many JRPGs.

    1
  43. de stijl says:

    @PoliticalBiker:

    Per your avatar pic:

    Minnesota! Represent. Hoo hoo.

  44. Kathy says:

    @wr:
    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    The Washington Georges?
    The Washington Unloved?

    I know:
    The DC Deep State!

    1
  45. de stijl says:

    @Joe:

    Per capita, St. Paul has a lot more Jews than Minneapolis. I like the alliteration, though. Plus the Maccabees were pretty badass. I like Maqabim.

    St. Paul never gets any love. The little brother forever. Any town that has a neighborhood called Swede Hollow or Frogtown deserves our respect.

    1
  46. Bill says:

    I think the new team should be the Washington Controversies. What will their logo be?

  47. Joe says:

    @James Joyner:

    I gather that the team has already landed on a preferred nickname but there are issues with trademarks that need to be resolved ahead of time. Given the NFL’s deep pockets, I don’t think they’ll have any trouble buying out any other rightsholder.

    I imagine many enterprising trolls have been registering whatever names they think the Washington franchise might move to. In my trademark registration practice, I have come across several such troll who maintain pretty large portfolios of pretty thinly “used” marks, for just such occasions.

  48. Mister Bluster says:

    Washington Watergates

    1
  49. Mister Bluster says:

    Washington Wilburs

    Recognizing Representative Wilbur Mills. The 36 year member of Congress from Arkansas who was brought down by the Tidal Basin Bombshell in 1976.

  50. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’m not saying that the Chiefs or the Braves are offensive, just that I wouldn’t take the word of a white guy who hasn’t shown any particular deep knowledge of Native Americans.

    My “replace it with something jewish” test isn’t always accurate, but it has very few false positives for offensiveness. It points where you need to get some better advice.

    1
  51. @Gustopher: Agreed all around.

  52. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    I am not immediately squicked out by Chiefs or Indians (as long as they get rid of the horrible Chief Yahoo symbology) or Illini or Seminoles as long as it is in good faith and positive.

    It pisses me off that the Washington NFL team used that slur that long.

    But, I’m a white guy nearing 60. Just because I used to wear an AIM button on my jacket back when gives me no voice. I might be entirely off.

    Will accede to smarter voices who thought this through.

  53. Jc says:

    I would keep it simple and go with warriors. As a DC sports fan, the Bullets to Wizards name change haunts me. I still don’t like the Wizards name. Kinda dumb for a DC team. Warriors can tie in to all service members in the area and fan base could buy into that. Same letter count, fits the fight song…stuff like that. Red wolves? Meh. Plus would love to see that scene from the 70’s movie pre-game…”Warriorssss, come out to plaaaaayy, Warriors, come out to playyyyyy!” Lol.

  54. de stijl says:

    @Jc:

    Warriors! Come out to playyy-ayy!

    It only works if you clank beer bottles together.

    Which may be an issue at a stadium full of drunk people.

    I am still haunted by Eagles fans pelting Santa with snowballs.

    Remar was pretty great, but a character actor who needs his name sung to the high rafters is David Patrick Kelly.

  55. de stijl says:

    I kinda think @sam got it right in the very first comment.

    There is a lot to to like about The Redtails. Plus P-51s were so badass. Hell of a logo.

  56. Michael Cain says:

    @Kathy:

    IMO, a team’s nickname ought to reflect something particular to the city/region they represent, or allude to an attribute desired or required in their sport.

    Washington Bureaucrats. They can use a stylized briefcase as a logo.

  57. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    IMO, a team’s nickname ought to reflect something particular to the city/region they represent, or allude to an attribute desired or required in their sport.

    Back in the ’90s when the Baltimore Ravens were being created, local business mogul Boogie Weinglass (who was reportedly the basis of Mickey Rourke’s character in the movie Diner) gave this crass anti-intellectual objection in which he boasted about never having read a book in his life and implied it was too literary a reference for a football team. He preferred the team be called the “Baltimore Bombers.”

    1
  58. SKI says:

    @Kylopod: FYI: that wasn’t in connection with the Ravens and their relocation from Cleveland in ’96 but the expansion lottery in ’93.

    The name was related to the B-26s that were designed and made in Baltimore in WWII.

  59. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    You have to give it up for anyone who goes by Boogie Weinglass. That is a hell of a name.

  60. Tyrell says:

    “Montana tribal members react to Washington NFL team name, logo change” (Great Falls Tribune). Mixed feelings from the people. Let’s listen to them, not politicians and investors. And how about the fans who have spent their money and time over the decades supporting their team?
    “Native American son of Redskins logo designer says it’s not offensive, calls the change ‘hard’ (WUSA9). “The Redskins logo is a sense of pride to the Native American Tribe who created the team logo, the son of the designer says.”
    Maybe they should listen to people like him before they make these hasty decisions. I wonder if any Native Americans were even invited to give their opinions.
    And what is that statue on the top of the US Capitol?

    1