The Washington Football Team officially changed its name to the Washington Commanders.
The change was revealed by team president Jason Wright, who appeared on NBC’s Today Show Wednesday morning. The announcement ends a search that took more than one year after the club ditched its former name – the “Redskins” – in July 2020 after corporate sponsors including FedEx threatened to pull business. The name has long been considered a racist slur against Native Americans.
“It’s a name that has the weight and meaning befitting a 90-year-old franchise,” Wright said of the Commanders. “It’s something that broadly resonated with our fans and its something that we believe embodies the values of service and leadership that really define the [D.C., Maryland and Virginia area].
“It’s also something importantly that we could own, and grow for the next 90 years,” Wright added.
Washington joins the Cleveland Guardians, which had previously removed logos mimicking Native Americans. The Major League Baseball franchise changed its name last July – dropping the “Indians” after critics argued it was racist. The Guardians name goes into effect for the 2022 MLB season.
Wright has said a new team identity would start the process of increasing the value of the club, which is still repairing its image after workplace misconduct allegations.
But despite a rollercoaster year in 2021, which saw team owner Dan Snyder step away, and the team missing playoffs for the 17th time in his 23 years of ownership, Washington remains the fifth most valuable National Football League franchise at $4.2 billion, according to Forbes.
Wright said the team considered the name “Wolves” which was a fan favorite, but “trademarks held by other teams would limit our ability to make the name our own,” he wrote in a blog post on Jan. 4. “And without Wolves, variations like Red Wolves wouldn’t have been viable either for these and other reasons,” he said.
Shifting the focus to a new stadium
With its new name in place, expect the franchise to press forward with a new stadium to replace the dilapidated FedEx Field. The complex made the headlines after deteriorating during the 2021 season. Issues included a broken sewer pipe and a railing that collapsed after a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Jan. 2
That process will be led by Wright, the NFL’s first Black team president, and Snyder.
“The clock is ticking on that,” Wright told CNBC in August 2020 regarding the new complex. “That is a major endeavor and an economic driver not just for the club, but for the entire region.”
The club’s lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027. It was previously interested in a new 60,000-seat stadium at its old RFK site in Washington, D.C, where the team played from 1961-1996.
The thing is, the U.S. Department of the Interior owns the land RFK occupies. Hence, the team needs to secure another lease to operate on the property. In addition, the club would need to satisfy local D.C. officials. Virginia politicians, including new governor Glenn Youngkin, are pushing to lure the team with a new stadium, too.
That could be an easier route for the franchise than the RFK site, as the team isn’t the most popular sports club on Capitol Hill.
In 2021, Snyder settled a dispute with co-owners, including FedEx chairman Fred Smith, when he reportedly paid $875 million to buy minority shares of the team. Last June, the team named his wife, Tanya Snyder, as co-CEO. The following month, the NFL fined the team $10 million following an investigation surrounding sexual misconduct allegations.
Dan Snyder then gave up control of the day-to-day operations to focus on a new stadium.