Four Reasons For Optimism on Name Change
As we have seen over the past week and a half, the debate over the Washington Football team nickname has dominated headlines. It has elicited emotions of excitement, anger and even relief.
While some celebrate the fact that the team moniker is no longer a derogatory term, another contingent laments on the fact that a fabric of their youth is being torn away. The team has stood in the nation’s capital since 1937, and coincidentally turns 88 on it’s “birthday” of July 9th.
This deep attachment to the city makes a change to anything other than the Redskins seem hard.
But as the saying goes… Change is never easy. However sometimes change is good.
Below are four reasons why fans of Washington should be optimistic moving forward.
Change in Leadership
Regardless of how you feel about the name, it’s fair to say the team has struggled to put on a competitive product. This was especially true during the Bruce Allen era in which he directed the team to a 62-94-1 record in his ten years as team president.
His leadership led to many off-the-field distractions including heated contract negotiations with quarterback Kirk Cousins, and a medical dispute with franchise centerpiece Trent Williams. These issues brought negative attention to the team, and created rifts in the NFL community.
At one point, the team’s social media account could not put up a simple post without being bombarded with the hashtag #FireBruceAllen. This led to division within the program, and unnecessary questions towards players. This upcoming season, Allen will no longer be part of the program, and that should be viewed with welcome relief.
In his place, the two-time NFL Coach of the Year Ron Rivera takes over a team in which he not only oversees the on the field play, but also the day-to-day operations of the franchise as a whole.
Rivera brings a fresh perspective and is renowned across the league as a man of integrity. He has already preached “family” and “unity” throughout the organization and has hosted town halls among his players regarding social justice movements. He even had an active hand in creating the Black Engagement Network (B.E.N.) which was designed to strengthen the franchise's commitment to their Black employees through professional development and career management.
The shift in leadership alone should be a point of optimism in DC. With a proven coach, and a better reputation around the league, the team can get back to what matters most -- on the field play.
Potential Stadium in DC
Although the 2019 season was painful to watch, it may have been the “necessary evil” the DC region needed to spur on change. The team finished with a 3-13 record, and struggled to fill the stands at FedEx Field. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the team ranked 20th in the league in terms of ticket sales in 2019, and averaged around 65,000 tickets sold; or 79.9% capacity.
But that truly doesn’t paint an accurate picture of what transpired last fall. For many of the games, the stadium was barren or filled with opposing fans. And at one point in the season, you could purchase tickets for less than ten dollars. You could argue it was the team’s performance last year, but ticket sales have been decreasing for several years now, and the lack of access to Landover, Maryland has provided barriers.
With a new name, we are already seeing momentum to a return to DC. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has shared that a name change will open the path to negotiations with the Federal Government, and expressed optimism that a stadium deal could get done.
If the stadium is built in DC, and that’s a big if, it will provide an excellent opportunity to bring energy back to the region. It’s common practice for the NFL to reward new stadiums with hosting a Super Bowl, and a world class stadium could be used as the city’s “crown jewel” to host events such as the World Cup or the Olympics.
The last component is that if the stadium has a retractable roof, it could be used as a complex year round to host camps and events for the city and nearby populations. This has been a missed opportunity for the last 20 years.
The door was closed to this opportunity with the current moniker, and now could potentially change.
Opens Door to New Fanbase
Moving the stadium to DC would also provide a robust opportunity for fans to tie in city-life with a “Sports Sunday.” For those that frequent the area, downtown DC has a popular brunch social scene, and many socialites will gladly spin off those “bottomless mimosas” and Bloody Marys into a short cab ride into the stadium.
This was never an option before, with the current name in place. The DC city council was reluctant to allow a team with a perceived derogatory name onto federal owned property. Also, an educated and socially progressive region, such as downtown DC, was reluctant to attach themselves to a team with an offensive name.
Changing the name will open the door to a new fanbase, who was never available before. Many transplants to the city have embraced the Washington Nationals and Capitals, due to their proximity to the city, but were reluctant to support the football team. Going to a football game was inconvenient out in the suburbs, or maybe even frowned upon due to the name.
A rebrand and move to the city offers an opportunity to refresh southeast DC and provide young professionals a new talking point for social life.
Better Public Image Nationally
A common rebuttal from the “Keep the Name” contingent is that they don’t care how they are viewed nationally. I think that’s short-sighted. There is no coincidence that when Robert Griffin III excelled in 2012, and the team returned to prominence, that the calls for the name change began to arise. As you can imagine, the larger the platform, the larger the voice, and opponents of the name had a larger platform to voice this displeasure.
If the team retained the name, they would always have had a glass ceiling of national support and respect. There would have always been a detractor of the name, using the opportunity to discredit the program or criticizing its mishaps. If you follow the team, it’s undeniable. The last 20 years the Washington program has been under heavy scrutiny and many have shown their lack of affection for the team outwardly. This has ultimately led to bad press, awkward questions, and off-the-field issues that have spilled onto the playing field.
For once, the team can avoid scrutiny and fly under the radar. And, if they began to win early, they can be a team many would rally around. The team has intriguing players including Chase Young, a player many have deemed as a potential superstar.
With an acceptable name, and the focus solely on play, the team may be one that can now be accepted universally. The average age of the Redskins team is 26.1, and this includes an elder Adrian Peterson and Alex Smith.
Ideally, with less distractions on the inappropriateness of the name, the team can be celebrated more as a young and up-and-coming group to root for. As opposed to a team to always root against.
Considering all of this, I think the potential benefits of a new team name far outweighs the nostalgia of keeping the name. The team now has credible leadership, and a young core capable of growing and forming continuity. With a rebrand, the team now offers a fresh perspective and can now shake off the stink of 20+ years of poor play. And a stadium in DC will make the team intertwined with the region once again.
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George Carmi is an editor/contributing writer to FullPressCoverage.com or @FPC_Redskins. He is a native of the DC metropolitan area and is an avid fan of DC Sports. A former journalism major at the University of Maryland, his focus is now in public education. His earliest memories consist of Darrell Green, "The Posse" and Super Bowl XXVI. Follow him on twitter @Gcarmi21