Washington’s new name takes command

Connor Foote and Sarah Prillaman

On Feb. 2, after 19 months of speculation as the Washington Football Team, the DMV has a new team(ish) in town. The National Football League’s (NFL) + D.C. team unveiled their new name: the Commanders. Along with the name, the team released images of stars and team captains Terry McLaurin, Chase Young and Jonathan Allen in their new threads: McLaurin in the historic burgundy and gold, Young’s with white and red accents, and Allen dressed in black and yellow. A slightly new logo and novel crest were also dropped.

In July 2020, the Commanders officially dropped “Redskins”, their name of 88 years since the team’s founding in 1932. This followed years of scrutiny, as the former eponym is a derogatory term directed towards Native Americans. In recent years, sports teams outside of the Commanders have seen similar situations. Cleveland’s baseball Guardians, formerly the Indians, changed their name last November, and the Chiefs’ name is being debated as well. Many fans were understandably opposed to dropping “Redskins,” as it carried years of history. Memories like being at RFK Stadium watching their favorite team with their family, or watching at home as Redskins legends such as Art Monk, Doug Williams and Joe Theismann win Super Bowls in ‘80s and ‘90s were connected to the former name. Theismann, for one, is hopeful about the team’s new identity moving forward.

“I think the Commanders is a name that is going to be one that hopefully people like going forward,” Theismann, the 1983 NFL Most Valuable Player said.

The military theme was clearly in the process from the start. Head Coach Ron Rivera served in the military and as the team is in the nation’s capital the organization felt it was important to reflect the country’s military heritage. However, the Commanders were not always, or ever, the favorite. An early contender was the Red Tails, after the nickname of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Admirals, Red Wolves, and Warriors were also in the mix for potential new names.

“I like the new name,” David Cate (’23) said. “But I think that there were better options that would have appealed to more fans, like the Red Wolves, for example”. At one point, the Red Wolves were considered the favorite, but copyright issues arose, and the name soon disappeared from official conversation, if not from fan’s hearts.

The Commanders finished this season at 7-10, giving them the 11th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Injuries and COVID-19 cases derailed a promising win streak that started with a 29-19 revenge win against Tom Brady’s Buccaneers, losing the last five games of their season. All were against division opponents. Despite the disappointing end to their season, the Commanders have one of the biggest cap spaces in the NFL and a relatively high pick.

Coupled with their new identity, the Washington Commanders’ future is bright.