Washington’s NFL team, formerly known as the Washington Redskins, is currently looking for a new name. On July 13, 2020, team owner Daniel Snyder decided to drop the name the team had held since 1933. He made this decision in response to an extensive lobbying campaign by activists, politicians and sponsors who consider the term “Redskins” to be an ethnic slur against Native Americans.
The controversy over this name has existed among activists since the 1960s, although it didn’t receive widespread attention until the 1990s. In general, Washington fans strongly favored keeping the team’s name until about 2014, when opposing lobbyists began to gain momentum. By the 2019 season, it was clear that public opinion had shifted and the team’s name would need to be changed.
Daniel Snyder, who acquired the team in 1999, said that he and his family considered changing the name multiple times during the last 20 years. He had previously decided not to do so because the name was a source of pride for fans. Snyder added that his eventual decision to change the name wasn’t an easy one. The naming controversy became an increasing distraction for the team during the last few years. He made the decision to change the name in early 2020, so the team could return its focus to playing football. Snyder added that he wanted the new name to be one that would unify “people of all backgrounds and to continue to be a source of pride for the next 100 years or more.”
Dan Snyder has explained that the process for renaming the team could be a prolonged one. The team will be known as the Washington Football Team during the interim, at least for the 2020 NFL season. Snyder initially implemented this change as a stop gap measure because he didn’t think it would be possible to give the final decision the thought it deserved before the 2020 season, which officially begins in early September.
However, he began to consider a different possibility as the time approached for Washington to play its first game against Philadelphia on September 13. Snyder now says his team may keep the name and be permanently known as the Washington Football Team, depending on whether that name catches on among fans. He added that the branding for the new name would have “a very classy retro look and feel.”
The timing of Snyder’s decision left little time to rebrand a business worth billions of dollars and under close public scrutiny. A period of intense speculation regarding the new name soon followed, with the most popular possibilities among fans and odds makers including the Generals, Redwolves and Redtails. The team announced on July 23 that it would be known as the Washington Football Team for 2020 and wouldn’t have a mascot. It then had 45 days to rebrand itself, a massive undertaking Snyder said would typically take up to six months.
This process involved removing the old name and logo from all marketing materials, including stadium signage, street signs and websites. For example, the road to the stadium is now named after Sean Taylor, a safety for the team who was murdered in 2007. The stadium’s lower bowl has been renamed after Bobby Mitchell, the first African American on the team. Mitchell’s number was also retired at that time.
Dan Snyder is restructuring his team in response to these recent events. He hired Julie Donaldson to replace the team’s previous senior vice president of media, who was one of the executives accused recent allegations. This change makes Donaldson the franchise’s highest-ranking woman. Snyder also hired Jason Wright as the team’s president, becoming the first African American to hold that position for any NFL franchise. Wright was previously a partner at McKinsey & Co. and an NFL player before that.
The formal process for renaming the team in now underway as the 2020 NFL season begins. The team’s ad campaign has also launched, using the slogan, “No name, but team.” Snyder says he doesn’t have a specific date in mind for making the final decision, adding that he’s more interested in making the right one.
About Dan Snyder
Daniel M. Snyder is the current owner of the Washington Football Team and the Johnny Rockets restaurant chain. He’s also the primary investor of Red Zebra Broadcasting and Chairman of the Board for Six Flags Inc., the world’s largest operator of amusement and theme parks.
Snyder was born in 1965, and his first job was at B. Dalton bookstore when he was 14. He was running his own business by the time he was 20, in which he leased jets to fly college students to the Caribbean and Fort Lauderdale during spring break. Snyder recognized that the rapid growth of cable TV channels during the late 1980s presented an opportunity for advertisers reach more targeted audiences. He founded Snyder Communications Inc. in 1988 with his sister Michelle to outsource marketing services and took the company in 1996, making Snyder the youngest person in history to become the CEO of a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.