KDLG Header Banner Image
Public Radio for Alaska's Bristol Bay
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Washington Football Team's new name is the Washington Commanders

Dan, left, and Tanya Snyder, co-owner and co-CEOs of the Washington Commanders, pose for photos after unveiling their NFL football team's new identity, on Wednesday. The new name comes 18 months after the once-storied franchise dropped its old moniker following decades of criticism that it was offensive to American Indians.
Patrick Semansky
/
AP
Dan, left, and Tanya Snyder, co-owner and co-CEOs of the Washington Commanders, pose for photos after unveiling their NFL football team's new identity, on Wednesday. The new name comes 18 months after the once-storied franchise dropped its old moniker following decades of criticism that it was offensive to American Indians.

Updated February 2, 2022 at 9:56 AM ET

After 18 months of speculation (and internet sleuthing), the Washington Football Team officially revealed its new name on Wednesday — the Commanders.

"It's a name that has the weight and meaning befitting a 90-year-old franchise," team president Jason Wright said as he announced the new name on the Today show Wednesday morning.

"It's something that broadly resonated with our fans," he added, "and it's something that we believe embodies the values of service and leadership that really define the DMV [the District, Maryland and Virginia] in this community."

The team's colors will remain burgundy and gold. Its logo centers on a capital "W," and the new uniforms also incorporate elements of the D.C. flag, with three stars and two bars. As for a new mascot and fight song, Wright said the team wants its fans to help work on those ideas.

Wright announced the name at FedEx Field alongside former Washington quarterback Doug Williams. Asked about his initial reaction upon hearing the new name, Williams said, "I'm going to hug Commanders, because that's what we are, and we've got to go forward with it."

"I do like the name," he added. "It's got a good sound to it."

Wednesday's big announcement ends months of research, focus groups and fan submissions for new names. On Twitter, reactions were decidedly mixed, with some fans complaining that the name wasn't as exciting as the "Red Wolves" — an idea that the team has previously dismissed.

Other comments noted that this is the second Commanders pro football team, after the San Antonio franchise of the short-lived Alliance of American Football league.

"Two years of 'working the brand' to even copy the hashtag from a 2019 team," one user wrote, calling out the #takecommand hashtag.

The team scrapped its previous name — the Washington Redskins — in July 2020 after years of pressure to do away with it because of its racist connotations against Native Americans, a name it had for 87 years.

Last August, the team banned fans from wearing "Native American-inspired" dresses inside its home stadium, such as headdresses and face paint. The new guideline was announced in a stadium policy and protocol update ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Sleuths speculated the new name for weeks

Before the Washington Commanders made their official announcement on its new team name, some internet sleuths discovered it a bit earlier than planned.

Just last week, a Twitter user by the name of LarryLegendBTW noticed that the Commanders.com domain had been transferred to California-based MarkMonitor —the company the NFL uses to control most of the domain names for its teams and brands, according to Sporting News.

Sporting News reported that all but six NFL teams have their team websites on MarkMonitor — the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders and Houston Texans all use Network Solutions, while the Washington Football Team (now Commanders) uses GoDaddy.

"There's two reasons you acquire a name. One is you acquire it for pure speculation, and you hold onto it. And two is you acquire it because you want to use it," technology expert Shawn DuBravac told TV station Fox 5 DC. "And typically when you acquire it and you want to use it, you're going to move it to where you're going to deploy it."

A few names were off the table from the beginning

Wright said in a statement last month that one option was off the table when it came to the team's new name: anything to do with "Wolves" or "Red Wolves."

While the "Red Wolves" was a fan favorite, Wright said "trademarks held by other teams would limit our ability to make the name our own. And without Wolves, variations like RedWolves wouldn't have been viable either for these and other reasons."

In July 2021, Wright canceled out another possible choice of the team's name — the Warriors — "with the clear acknowledgment that it too closely aligns with Native American themes."

For the longest time, the team's owner — Dan Snyder — had brushed off lobbying efforts by activists and Native American groups to change the franchise's name.

"We'll never change the name," he told USA Today in 2013. "It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."

But seven years later, the push for the team's name change resurfaced after the murder of George Floyd and the nationwide outcry regarding racial and social injustices of people of color.

The organization has its fair share of issues

News of the team's new name and branding comes following an investigation into workplace misconduct within the organization.

The investigation, prompted by a series of reports from The Washington Post in 2020, looked into the alleged sexual harassment experienced by female team employees and the mistreatment of the team's cheerleaders.

Following the team's investigation, the NFL fined the Football Team $10 million.

The House Oversight Committee will hold a roundtable on Thursday with several former team employees to discuss "issues of workplace misconduct and the National Football League's (NFL) failure to take steps to prevent sexual harassment and verbal abuse within the WFT under the leadership of owner Dan Snyder."

According to the committee, the roundtable is intended to inform "potential legislative solutions" to protect workers from harassment and discrimination.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.