At long last and after much anticipation, the Washington Football Team finally has a new name: the Washington Commanders.
Fans waited patiently for the announcement on NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday, with Craig Melvin, NBC anchor and Washington Football Fan Ambassador, given the honor of breaking the news.
The announcement also included the new logo and uniform combinations along with a video.
The rebranding efforts have been in the works essentially since team President Jason Wright came on board in August 2020. Often long and methodical, the process has been heavily reliant upon fan and alumni feedback.
Fury rose exponentially in the past few years from the community and football fans across the U.S., with demands that the team change its name from the Redskins, citing its disrespect for Native Americans.
Wright, the first African American hired as team president in NFL history, compiled an executive leadership team to work on the renaming and rebranding process in concert with ownership.
The team agreed that the name would not include any Native American imagery, would not be Wolves or Redwolves and would be one that represents the DMV region.
Longtime fans offered their views on the anticipated announcement.
“I am just happy that we finally have a name,” said Romanda Noble-Watson, a native Washingtonian who currently resides in South Carolina. “The name gives us a different type of branding but for me, I am going to support the franchise, no matter what the name.”
Kip Smith, director of athletics at the School Without Walls, offered his perspective.
“Personally, I root for the name in from of the nickname. It is similar to the reaction when the Bullets became the Wizards. After a while, fans became comfortable with the change and now it is rarely mentioned. I’m a Washington fan. Period,” he said.
Native Washingtonian Chris Henderson said the time for change had come long ago.
“The name change is long overdue,” said Chris Henderson, 26, who said he’s followed the team for as long as he can remember.
“I am happy that they recognized that there was a need for change. What better time than for 2022 to start the new year and the Super Bowl week? Hopefully, it will reinvigorate the loyal fans from the past and propel the new generation of fans,” Henderson said.
Gary Williams, a former season ticket holder and fan since 1992, offered his perspective.
“I hope that it will change the culture but I am not so sure that a name change is the solution,” he said. “It starts at the top. I was just watching a piece on the 30-year anniversary of the glory year of the Super Bowl run. It is different from the culture we are seeing now. Hopefully, the new branding will change that. We will see.”
For Kenyan McDuffie, Ward 5 Council member, the name change has been something for which he’s been advocating far too long. He also led the charge to change the name of his alma mater, Woodrow Wilson High School, which while approved by the D.C. Council, must still be officially adopted.
“As a city and a country, we can’t sweep our dark history under a rug or hide from it. But we can eliminate imagery, icons and names that are hurtful or that honor historic figures unworthy of our respect,” he said.
Editor’s Note: Joe Theismann, a Washington Football Team franchise legend, in a recent interview with Damon Amendolara for CBS Sports, apparently spoiled the surprise, even posting comments Theismann shared on his Twitter page which alluded to the name “Commanders” being a great possibility. Then, late Tuesday, Feb. 1, during an evening news broadcast, a reporter announced that the Washington Football Team’s store already had a sign inside which read “Commanders.” Looks like the cat had already escaped from the bag. But who can keep a secret these days given the power of social media?