The Washington Football Team announced that it would unveil its new team name on Groundhog Day, February 2, 2022. The culmination of an 18-month rebranding was prompted by the loss of corporate sponsors that objected to the team’s former name.
The pending announcement will finalize a lengthy rebranding that began in July 2020 amid mounting pressure from team sponsors, local officials and Native American advocacy groups and activists who had urged the NFL to force a change. The team retired its old name and adopted Washington Football Team in the interim as it navigated the legal hurdles and marketing challenges that come with overhauling an 87-year-old brand.
The team buckled under pressure from its corporate sponsors in the summer of 2020 and announced on July 13, 2020, that it would rebrand, effectively dropping the controversial Redskins name. It temporarily adopted The Washington Football Team name for the 2020-2021 season. In the wake of the George Floyd murder, we saw other companies decide to rebrand and remove racial stereotypes, including the Cleveland Indians, who announced last summer they would rebrand to the Cleveland Guardians.
Team owner Daniel Snyder, who grew up a fan before purchasing the team in 1999, had fought vehemently against calls to change the name, insisting it honoured the heritage of Native Americans. In a 2013 interview, he vowed: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
When the team relented, it didn’t provide a timetable for revealing the name. It wasn’t until this past summer when team president Jason Wright announced that its more permanent identity would be finalized in early 2022 after it whittled a collection of some 40,000 fan submissions and worked through multiple focus groups to create a shortlist of options.
Wright described the team’s rebranding as “a reintroduction to the fan base” and “a catalyst” for its bigger projects, such as building a new stadium and expanding its business to include multiple non-football entities, much like the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys have done.
Since then, the franchise has teased new names — RedWolves, Admirals, Generals, Armada, Presidents — in social media announcements and statements from Jason Wright, the team’s president.
Wright, in a statement posted to the team’s website, eliminated from contention both variations of the RedWolves name, favoured by fans, because they conflict with trademarks held by other teams that “would limit our ability to make the name our own.”
The introduction of a new name and logo in four weeks will be a welcome distraction for a club dogged by negative news.
Through most of 2020 and 2021, the team’s majority owner, Daniel Snyder, was involved in a contentious fight with three longtime limited partners in the franchise. After several rounds of mudslinging and court battles, the league’s owners agreed to let Snyder buy out his former partners for $875 million and fully consolidate his ownership of the team.