PRESS BOX: From a fan, this sucks: The Washington Commanders rebranding

Illustration by Tia Blumenau

JJ Hendrickson, Contributing Writer

Washington’s NFL franchise, formerly known as “Football Team,” revealed its new name to the world on Feb. 2: The Washington Commanders. 

The announcement came 18 months after the franchise’s initial name change from the Washington Redskins, which was deemed offensive to Native Americans by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Coming from a lifelong Washington fan, the team did not do well with choosing a new name for the franchise. “Commanders” is already the former name of a San Antonio team in the Alliance of American Football (AAF), so it is unoriginal and unimaginative.

From a fan’s perspective, the name should have received more support from team supporters, like the name “Armada.” Additionally, the name has no relation to the franchise’s history. The Name feels random and like they settled for mediocrity, which is all the franchise has been over the past two decades: mediocre at best.

Although the name reveal seemed underwhelming, the team went through a long, extensive process that even included input from the fans themselves, according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Washington Post.

“The road to Wednesday’s [Feb. 2] announcement was 18 months in the making, with most decisions under a shroud of secrecy,” Jhabvala stated. “The exhaustive process involved input ranging from fans’ suggestions on names to co-CEO Tanya Snyder’s opinions on uniform design, suggestions from former players and even those of current players who shared their thoughts on potential names and logos.”

One of the players who was asked about potential names for the team was star edge rusher Chase Young. In a November interview with USA Today Sports, Young gave the Commanders’ name an “F grade.” Like Young, the fans were not thrilled when they found out about the new name.

The backlash that Washington received on Feb. 2 was monumental. In a survey conducted by SportsBlog Nation, 37% of NFL fans gave the name an “F” grade, while only 2% gave it an “A.” Additionally, 78% of fans said they preferred the “Football Team” name to the new alternative. 

Pat McAfee, an NFL show host, believes the team’s performance will influence public opinion of the name, he said on the “Pat McAfee Show” the day of its reveal.

“If they win, everybody will love it. If they lose, everybody will hate it,” McAfee said the morning of the rebrand.

Although it has received its fair share of hate, the name stands for the people in the DMV area, which stands for Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The Commanders stated what it represents in a statement released on Feb. 2.

“‘Commanders’ brings to life the commitment to service and leadership that defines the DMV community. Importantly, the team’s new identity also represents the values that bond the Burgundy & Gold family, including resilience, grit, tradition and unity, and honors the progress and potential of its present and future,” the team stated. 

However, the name change is just part of the bigger picture; Washington would never have changed its name if its former one was not a slur against Native Americans. Although the change is a step in the right direction, it really solves absolutely nothing. 

In American sports, one of the biggest pieces of the current controversy is the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs announced that they have no plans to change its name, after the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians changed to the Commanders and Guardians, respectively. The team has banned headdresses and face paint inside of its stadium in an effort to avoid gimmicking Native American culture as much as possible. 

Gaylene Crouser, executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center, thinks the team should change its name. Crouser said that the team needed to rebrand in Feb. 2021 on CBS.

“If your team name inspires you to do something that people are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s racist,’ then maybe your team name needs to change, because that’s just not – it’s not sustainable,” Crouser said.

If it means Native Americans will no longer be offended, all teams who have a name relating to Indigenous peoples should follow in the Washington Commanders’ footsteps. By going through a rebrand, it will eliminate the controversy surrounding the topic. If Kansas City does end up making a change to its team name, it should at least pick a better name than “Commanders.”

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