The Washington franchise of the NFL, the Commanders, hosted its first “Welcome Home Luncheon” under its new name since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and under the pall of gun violence endured by one of its promising young players.
The luncheon, which had about 300 people in attendance, occurred at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill on Sept. 1. While the event has taken place annually for 60 years, except for 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, MGM served as its host for the first time.
The luncheon functions as an event honoring the team’s players, coaches and staff members who have distinguished themselves in activities on and off the field, some non-athletic in nature. It also serves as a rallying cry for the team for the upcoming regular season.
“We have one goal here and that is to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Washington where it belongs,” said Commanders Team President Jason Wright. “That’s why we get up every morning and go to work.”
Wright noted the new name for the team, saying it symbolized what it meant to represent the Washington area.
“We live in an area known for leadership and service,” he said. “Not only leaders on Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court but in the neighborhoods and businesses that make up this area. When the ownership chose Commanders as the new name, it was intentional on doing this.”
The Commanders have had to deal with issues surrounding workplace culture for months.
The team co-owner, Dan Snyder, has faced inquiries about sexist behavior among staffers that have garnered the attention of Congress along with his participation in alleged financial improprieties now being reviewed by the NFL.
The recent shooting of rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr in Northeast on Aug. 28 has placed the Commanders in the spotlight as the problem of increasing gun violence continues to plague the nation’s capital.
Tanya Snyder, the co-owner of the team who has taken over the reins of the organization while her husband remains on a leave of absence, spoke briefly about Robinson who did not attend the luncheon.
“What happened to Brian Robinson was a crime,” Snyder said. “We have supported him in the days following the incident. He means a lot to his teammates. We are praying for him.”
The Commanders have placed Robinson on the non-football injury list. As a result, he will miss at least four games, as required by NFL rules. However, he remains part of the 53-man roster.
Robinson, a third-round pick in April who had emerged as the team’s primary running back on early down, visited the Commanders facility last week after his surgery and received a hearty welcome.
Several Commanders players received awards during the event. Linebacker Jamin Davis received the Commanders Military Appreciation Award for his work in supporting families of members of the armed forces. Offensive lineman Charles Leno Jr. received the Brig Owens Community Man of the Year Award for his donations to organizations including Martha’s Table in Ward 8 and for providing social justice tutoring through his organization, “Beyond the Entertainer,” at Howard University.
Punter Tress Way accepted the Mark Moseley Special Teams Player of the Year Award for his efforts on the field while defensive tackle Jonathan Allen collected the Sam Huff Defensive Player of the Year Award with his first trip to the Pro Bowl for his play on the field during the 2021 season. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin earned the Bobby Mitchell Offensive Player of the Year Award for leading the team in receptions and receiving yards for the past three seasons.