Washington’s NFL team announced Tuesday it will unveil its new name on Feb. 2 and that it will not be the Wolves or RedWolves.
Commanders, Admirals, Armada, Brigade, Sentinels, Defenders, Red Hogs, Presidents and the status quo “Washington Football Team” were among the other finalists.
“We are on the brink of starting a new chapter, but our history, our legacy cannot be lost along the way," team president Jason Wright said in an episode of the team-produced show “Making the Brand." "Now, more than ever, it’s important that we stay connected to our roots. We understand the importance of choosing a meaningful name: one that will anchor the team for the next 90 years and beyond.”
Wright said the decision was made not to go with Wolves or RedWolves because of trademarks held by other organizations. Those possibilities were popular among Washington fans.
SUPPORT INDIGENOUS JOURNALISM. CONTRIBUTE TODAY
After the initial announcement in July that the team would not use a Native-themed mascot in the next team name, Suzan Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, said it was far past time for the organization to do the right thing. Harjo had been pushing for change for decades.
“I think it is the right thing to do,” Harjo told Indian Country Today. “It's the right thing to do because they've done the wrong thing since the mid 1930s.”
— Washington NFL Team says no Native-themed mascot
— Mascots honor an Indian who never was
— Study finds only harmful effects from Native-themed mascots
— Washington, take note: Mascot choices abound
The new helmets and uniforms will feature the franchise's signature burgundy-and-gold colors, with three stars on the collar and stripes on the shoulders of otherwise plain jerseys. In a “Making the Brand” clip showing him getting a look at one of the helmets, coach Ron Rivera said: “I love this. Right on. I think the look’s going to be hot."
A trailer teasing the reveal included a “W” logo making an appearance.
The video featured the messages: “Hail to the greats that laid the foundation for our legacy," “Hail to the fans we consider family,” “We are and always have been Washington," ”We will fight for our community" and “Together we will define our future.”
Photos of franchise greats were mixed in with current players meeting with military personnel and fans.
The organization dropped its old name in July 2020 after decades of complaints that it was racist toward Native Americans and recent pressure from team sponsors. The decision was made to be known as the Washington Football Team that season, which stuck around for 2021 while the front office went through a lengthy rebranding process.
“Our journey to a new identity is a marathon, not a sprint,” Wright said. “To get it right, we had to take every step of the process seriously, and the destination is a sum of all those parts.”
Fans on social media quickly began speculating what the new name could be. An ESPN staff writer noticed that the website, “WashingtonAdmirals.com” forwarded to the Washington NFL team site.
However, the tweet has been deleted since its original posting and the aforementioned website now forwards to ‘The Giving Kitchen,’ an organization that helps food service workers.
Washington was the first team in the four major North American professional sports leagues to move away from Native imagery amid a national reckoning on race. Cleveland in Major League Baseball followed suit, adopting the new name Guardians that is now in effect after settling a lawsuit with a roller derby team by the same name.
Sign up for ICT’s free newsletter
Wright made it clear during the rebranding process that Washington would not use any sort of Native American imagery moving forward. He, Rivera and others have made references to wanting to honor the once-storied franchise's tradition, which includes three Super Bowl championships.
“I just think the heritage and the history of our team is what’s so important, and, as fans, I think we’re going to rally around that team," Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs said. "I’d say probably what’s more important about naming the team, it’s trying to bring everybody together. ... That’s the one thing that we’ve got going for ourselves is the loyalty that we have for that team.”
Washington has not had a lot going on or off the field in recent years. The league fined the team $10 million after an investigation into workplace conduct, owner Dan Snyder squabbled with minority partners before buying out their shares, the front office took criticism this season for botching late safety Sean Taylor's jersey retirement and over the past 15 years the team has not won a playoff game.
Indian Country Today contributed to this report