On July 3rd, the Washington Redskins announced that they would “undergo a thorough review of the team’s name.” This announcement comes following years of lobbying and pressure from groups seeking to have the name changed. However, team owner Dan Snyder had repeatedly said to the media that he would never change the team’s name, citing that the name holds deep weight in D.C. and honors the heritage of Native Americans. Snyder finally budged after team sponsors such as FedEx, Nike, and Pepsi began demanding the team change their name and threatened to pull sponsorships.
The Redskins team name has been a topic of discussion for years. As a lifelong fan of the franchise, I knew a name change was definitely possible; it just never seemed like it’d be a reality due to Synder’s position. The inevitable name change was something that had floated around in my mind for a while, but it was always something I thought would be dealt with another day. Seeing now that the day has finally come, formulating my thoughts on the situation has proved more difficult than I would’ve imagined. While I understand and support the decision to change the name, I find myself feeling quite disappointed about it finally happening. The Redskins name is offensive to some groups of people, and I completely understand and support people’s thoughts on wanting the name to be changed. I see how having a professional sports team be named something one might consider offensive be damaging and disrespectful. But I am still disappointed in the Redskins’ announcement to change the name.
The purpose behind the Redskins name was never to demean or embarrass the Native American community. Just like the Chiefs, Braves, Blackhawks, and other teams named after Native American warriors, the purpose of the name is to portray a fierce and intimidating human mascot, similar to the Michigan State Spartans or the Golden State Warriors. In “Hail to the Redskins”, the NFL’s oldest fight song, one line says, “Braves on the warpath, fight for ol’ D.C..” The Redskins original intent was to respect the history of Native American warriors and brand their mascot as an intimidating force, as most sports franchises do. Nearly 88 years after the team was founded, public opinion on a team being called the “Redskins” has changed due to a shifting of what is and isn’t considered politically correct.
As a third-generation Washingtonian, I was taught to love the Redskins from a very early age. I’ve loved and supported this team my whole life, even though they’ve statistically been one of the worst franchises in football over the past 20 years. I was at the first home game after the death of All-Pro safety Sean Taylor, my favorite player of all time. I’ve witnessed the greatest comeback in team history in person against the Buccaneers, which is the same game in which Kirk Cousins infamously asked reporters, “You like that?!?”. I’ve seen thousands of happy fans packed into FedEx Field to watch their Redskins take home the NFC East title for the first time in 13 years. However, I’ve also watched this team go 3-13, trade the house for draft rights for Robert Griffin III, and get embarrassed by Michael Vick and the Eagles on Monday Night Football. Today, FedEx Field can barely fill seats on Sundays. I’ve been with the Redskins through their highest of highs and lowest of lows. Now that the name of the franchise is changing, my fandom for the team will remain, but I’m afraid my connection and love for the team will not.
The name change almost feels like a complete stab in the back. Dan Snyder had said that he would never change the name of the team for years despite pressure to do so. This was the one thing that Snyder could do to ensure that he wouldn’t lose his most loyal fans, as he has quite literally run this franchise into the ground since acquiring it in 1999. The Redskins, a once proud and elite NFL franchise, have been reduced to a joke in the eyes of NFL fans. Poor play on the field, poor performance from front office executives, and the toxic environment that Snyder has created within the franchise have driven casual fans of the team away. The Redskins had a 50-year home game sellout streak, and it finally came to an end after years of lackluster performance. The Redskins have continually been losing fans since Snyder bought the team. The recent success of other franchises in D.C. like that Nationals and Capitals certainly does not help the ‘Skins case in attracting new fans to the franchise. Snyder has had a reputation since becoming the owner of not caring about the product he puts on the field, but rather the money that he’s putting in his pockets. I wouldn’t care if Snyder decided to change the name only due to the controversial nature of the team’s name. However, this announcement is coming after financial backers and sponsors of the franchise threatened Snyder, which would’ve caused him to lose a lot of money if he did not comply with their demands.
There is so much history behind the Redskins name for football in D.C. Our fight song, Super Bowl Championships, and over 80 years of football in Washington will be left in the past. I support people who want to change the name, but I condemn Dan Snyder for deciding to change it under the circumstances that are causing him to change it. Snyder hasn’t cared about changing the name for years, but the second that money became involved, he quickly took action. As a loyal fan of the franchise and someone who has loved the Redskins since the day I was born, I don’t know how I’m going to feel about this franchise following Snyder’s decision. Why would I want to root for an organization that has continually put out mediocre product on the field only to have the team’s owner wipe away decades of history to make sure he has money in his pockets? I am going to remain a fan of the NFL franchise in Washington, but it will undoubtedly take some time to feel that same connection to the new team that I’ve felt for the Redskins my whole life.
On the other hand, I believe that this name change will also cause a lot of good for the franchise. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has stated that the Redskins will never get a stadium in the city unless they change their team’s name. Now that discussions about changing the team’s name are beginning to unfold, D.C. city officials and Dan Snyder may work out a deal to get a new stadium that is actually in the city. FedEx Field’s location is very inconvenient for many fans and deters people from wanting to go to games. Having a stadium in D.C. gives public transit opportunities to the stadium and would be a more central location for the franchise’s fanbase. Changing the team name and rebranding the team would also serve as a fresh start. The Redskins are associated with mediocrity, and the team’s name has garnered criticism for being offensive. Going in a completely different direction I think would be a smart move for the franchise. Changing the team name will bring in new fans who once refused to root for the NFL team due to the name. It could also bring back lost fans who stopped cheering for the ‘Skins thanks to the incompetence of the team’s management. While loyal fans of the Redskins might be upset with the decision, I think that it could prove beneficial for the team in the long run.
The Redskins are at a turning point in team history. The changing of the team’s name gives hope for a fresh start for the franchise. It also throws away years of history and tradition for football in the nation’s capital. Upon first hearing the news, I was devastated and even shed a tear, knowing that my beloved Redskins would be no longer. Despite my sadness and anger at Dan Snyder surrounding the name change, I think the decision will ultimately prove beneficial for this franchise. Now there is only one question about this situation remaining to be answered: what will the new name of the team be?