In 1933, the Boston Braves made a move to Fenway Park and took up the name the Boston Redskins. The name that became part of the team’s long history has been controversial for nearly as long. In the 1940s a campaign was started by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) to end stereotypes of Native Americans in the media—including sports team names and mascots. The team held that the name was chosen to honor the coach and four players at the time that were Native Americans and the name was not meant to be offensive, but a tribute to culture.
Over the past 87 years, the team has been hard-pressed to make a name change by vocal activists. In July, the team decided to drop the name due to the rising popularity favoring a name change. But, team owner Daniel Snyder didn’t want to rush into a new name. He grew up with a deep love for the Washington Redskins and had been outspoken in wanting to hold on to the connection he felt.
Rather than jump on a new name, Snyder chose to just go with Washington Football Team as the official name for the 2020 season. “No name, but Team” is current slogan for team as move season with change.
No logo, no mascot, just sleek new uniforms with deep burgundy helmets and a locally sourced name.
Snyder says the name might become a permanent identity, but is in no rush to make a final decision.
The name change did not come easy for Snyder or many of the diehard Washington fans that felt the name meant something to be proud of. “My father took me to first game in 1971” recalled Dan in past interview, “& I fell in love with Redskins & NFL right then. I was hooked. & we did not even win game.” But, his family has considered a name change many times over the years because of the controversy surrounding it for so long.
The team has faced a lot of allegations this summer that have brought controversy to a head. Dan Snyder has upheld he had no knowledge of any misconduct and that those kinds of abuses have no place on the team. In order to clean house and ensure a better environment moving forward, he launched a third-party investigation through attorney Beth Wilkinson and asked the NFL to oversee everything.
Snyder said in a statement to ESPN, “Recently, The Washington Football Team launched an independent third-party investigation into allegations about our culture and incidents of harassment. In conversations with Commissioner Goodell, Tanya and I suggested that the NFL assume full oversight of the investigation so that the results are thorough, complete and trusted by the fans, the players, our employees and the public. I appreciate Commissioner Goodell agreeing to our suggestion and the entire Washington Football Team remains committed to fully cooperating with all aspects of the investigation.” He also made it clear he would release former employees from any non-disclosure agreements in order to free them to speak freely with investigators.
In an effort to start in a new direction, Daniel Snyder also hired Julie Donaldson as Senior Vice President of Media for the team and this move makes her the team’s highest-ranked female employee. Dan Snyder also brought on former NFL player Jason Wright as President of the franchise, making him the first black person to hold that role in the NFL.
Along with the name change came a lot of infrastructure renaming too. The road that leads to the Washington Stadium is renamed “Sean Taylor Road” in memory of the former Washington safety who was murdered in 2007. The lower part of the stadium was renamed Bobby Mitchell in honor of the first black player for Washington who also was recognized in the past with a retired jersey number.
The name change has all taken place in less than two months. What would normally take a team up to six months, according to Dan Snyder, his team was able to do within 45 days in preparation for the season. Some argue this should have already been in the works, but the name has been with the team longer than Snyder has been alive. Breaking that tradition wasn’t something he took lightly after purchasing the team in 1999. Snyder noted the team name had a “long history and was a source of pride” for many fans and that “the decision to change was not an easy one.”
As far as the name goes, there is no set timeline for determining if Washington Football Team will get a new name or mascot. Official name talks are underway looking forward to the 2021 season, but nothing has been determined or announced. Right now, they just want to focus on building a stronger team and playing football.