Washington Football Team

7/15/2021, 6 p.m.
This week marks the year anniversary of enlightenment for the NFL Washington Football Team, which announced on July 13, 2020, ...

This week marks the year anniversary of enlightenment for the NFL Washington Football Team, which announced on July 13, 2020, that it was dropping the offensive name the franchise had used since 1933.

What a difference a year makes!

Team owner Dan Snyder finally listened to the voices of Native American rights groups, fans, team haters, political figures, investment firms and others—chiefly mega sponsor FedEx and other corporate partners whose money provided the right pressure—that the racist name needed to go and the team needed to rebrand.

We remind our readers that the Richmond Free Press stood at the vanguard in October 2013 when late Free Press founder and publisher Raymond H. Boone delineated that the newspaper was “expunging” the name from its news and editorial columns. Mr. Boone wrote at the time that the name was both insulting to Native Americans and divisive. The racist moniker was never used again in Free Press news and editorial content.

What a difference a year makes! Since Mr. Snyder’s announcement last year of the name’s retirement, our nation has experienced a continued awakening about equality, equity, fairness, justice and valuing our fellow human beings.

Through last summer’s worldwide protests over police abuse and injustice with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis to the universal and humbling grip of the pandemic on people and communities around the globe, we have seen cities and towns bring down statues honoring conquerors, Confederates and white supremacists who had little regard for the people they sought to annihilate, enslave and/or exploit.

Communities also have stripped those names from schools, roads, bridges and buildings and come together in consensus to rename them for people and places that inspire and uplift.

In Washington, many fans of the burgundy and gold scoff at the “blandness” of the NFL team’s interim handle – Washington Football Team. But as team president Jason Wright—a former player who became the first Black president of an NFL team in history when he was named last August— announced this week, the new name and logo will have “no linkage to Native American imagery.”

The franchise, he said, has nixed the proposal emanating from season ticketholders to call the team the “Washington Warriors.”

Mr. Wright said that feedback from Native Americans and others “revealed a deep-seated discomfort” with that suggestion.

“Such an embrace of potentially Native-adjacent iconography and imagery would not represent a clear departure that many communities have so forcefully advocated for us to embrace, and that frankly, we set out to do when we started this process a year ago,” he stated.

We are glad Mr. Wright and the Washington franchise are listening. Respect comes from active listening and engagement.

In the first week alone, the team received more than 5,000 submissions of names. Thousands more have come in each month, officials said.

The team has been working with Code and Theory, a New York-based agency, on a new name and logo and “is now down to a shortlist ... based on our strategic approach, research process and insight phase,” Mr. Wright said.

Richmond and its residents are invested in the team in many ways, and not solely because of the $10 million-plus the city put up to build the team’s training facility on West Leigh Street. Scores of people turn out in burgundy and gold jerseys—and bring their children who also are wearing team colors—to watch the players go through their drills even in boiling summer heat. They crowd the sidelines eagerly hoping to snag an autograph from their favorite players. They root each season for the team’s success.

We hope the new team name, which is to be announced in early 2022, will reflect and honor the loyalty and love from fans of all races, ethnici- ties and backgrounds and the spirit of hope and goodwill arising from the latest awakening. And we hope that the new moniker will be something we can all grow to embrace and be proud of.