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Commanders is new name of Washington's NFL team

The move comes 20 months after the club “retired” the name Redskins.

FedEx Field.
FedEx Field.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

COMMANDERS WILL BE the new name of the NFL’s Washington Football Team, the club announced Wednesday, completing a name change after dropping the controversial “Redskins” in 2020 over racist connotations.

The reveal was made at FedEx Field, the team’s home stadium, before a national television audience on NBC’s Today show.

The move comes 20 months after the club “retired” the name Redskins after sponsors began pressuring the team to make a change. It opted for Washington Football Team for the past two seasons while a decision on a new name was considered.

“It’s a name that has the weight and meaning befitting a 90-year-old franchise,” team president Jason Wright said. “It’s a name that broadly resonated with our fans.

“It’s something we believe embodies the values of service and leadership that really define… this community.

“It’s something that can allow us to tie the history and the rich championship legacy of this franchise to new traditions in the future.”

The team, founded in 1932 as the Boston Braves, changed its nickname to Redskins the following year and moved to the US capital in 1937.

Criticism grew over the nickname from fans and Native American communities but team owner Dan Snyder vowed he would keep the name and the team symbol of a side view of a Native American warrior’s face.

In 2020, following protests after the murder of George Floyd, team and NFL sponsors threatened to remove their backing if the team didn’t drop Redskins as the nickname. Some stores began removing Redskins merchandise.

The team announced it would conduct a review of the name and in July 2020 announced it would “retire” Redskins for the generic Washington Football Team, keeping its colors of burgundy and gold while setting the stage for the latest renaming.

“I loved it,” Washington captain Jonathan Allen said. “We’re excited about it and we’re going to go forward with it. We’re excited about the future.”

As the Redskins, the club won the NFL title in 1937 and 1942 and captured Super Bowl crowns for the 1982, 1987 and 1991 seasons.

The Washington Football Team went 7-9 in 2020 but won a division crown and reached the playoffs, losing to Tom Brady and the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It went 7-10 in the 2021 campaign that ended last month.

Washington fans haven’t enjoyed a winning campaign since 2016.

“It really is about renaming the team but I also think it’s about turning the page to a new chapter,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said.

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Retired Washington cornerback Fred Smoot compared the name change to still loving a sister even after she marries and changes her name.

“Let’s put the past in the past,” Smoot told Washington’s WRC-TV. “It’s a new era. Let’s move on to the future.”

The Washington change was not the only recent one in American sport regarding Native American nicknames.

Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians changed their name to the Cleveland Guardians after the 2021 season. The club had earlier dropped its “Chief Wahoo” logo, a Native American with a grinning face.

Other teams have kept nicknames that identify with Native American themes, including the 2020 NFL Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Major League Baseball’s reigning World Series champions, the Atlanta Braves.

– © AFP 2022

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