If the NFL lets Dan Snyder take the wheel of Washington's name change, it's asking for trouble

When the announcement finally came on Monday that the NFL’s Washington franchise was eliminating its long-lamented “Redskins” nickname and logo, it came in exactly the kind of petty fashion we have come to expect from team owner Dan Snyder.

It was billed a “retirement” rather than a termination.

In two separate sentences, the announcement accurately reflected the precise order of Snyder’s priorities in the change, promising to lean into the team’s “sponsors, fans and community.”

And in what should be interpreted as one last middle finger to those who have criticized the nickname and logo for so long, the message was delivered on “Redskins” letterhead — emblazoned with the same logo the team has been effectively leveraged into removing.

All of this begs a question that should be pointed directly to the NFL: Do you really expect this franchise to move swiftly and expeditiously through this name change? If the answer is yes, this is setting up for disappointment. Because the league really can’t trust Snyder to do this in a seamless fashion. Not after years of ignoring pleas until those pleas became threats and the threats involved money.

That’s precisely why the league needs to start making its own moves to distance itself from the “Redskins” brand immediately. Which it still hadn’t done on Monday, despite multiple sources from NFL franchises telling Yahoo Sports over the weekend that a change was coming soon. So much so that individuals from the league’s marketing office had begun encouraging platforms to prepare for a scrubbing of the Redskins logo and nickname.

Based on all the past evidence, there's no way the NFL thinks Dan Snyder can be trusted to smoothly handle Washington's name change. Right? (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Based on all the past evidence, there's no way the NFL thinks Dan Snyder can be trusted to smoothly handle Washington's name change. Right? (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

Frankly, that process should have started on Monday. Some teams were clearly preparing for it. But it didn’t, apparently because the NFL still hasn’t taken the lead on the initiative.

As two team sources told Yahoo Sports on Monday morning, they were still awaiting a specific directive about whether or not they were supposed to continue displaying the Washington nickname and logo.

“We’ve been led to believe keeping [the Redskins brand] on our website is not the preference [of the league office],” one team official said Monday. “We haven’t heard anything official yet, so we’re just leaving it as-is until something changes.”

That should bring some focus to Monday. It’s a controversial moment for those who decry the nickname and logo changes, and a celebration for others who have long championed their demise. But it’s also just a starting line, not a finish. And you can already see that in the messaging about how the next nickname and logo can’t be revealed due to securing trademark protections.

That process of securing trademark protections could take far longer than anyone expects, which is why it’s dubious to hear so many predict that the “Redskins” brand won’t exist when the season starts. Certainly it may not exist on some corporate platforms like Nike. But as long as Snyder entertains a trademark quagmire, it could exist inside the NFL for … well … there’s no telling how long.

That is why the when is key here. This process might take a week. It might take a month. It might take a year. All the while with the continued brand support of the NFL and its partners until the league wakes up and starts scrubbing away.

It’s hard to believe the NFL will be inclined to wait long on Snyder’s business wrangling, or have the confidence that he’s motivated to get this done quickly — although losing money in merchandise sales should be the red-hot poker that gets him moving.

But the league also has to recognize that whatever hurdles exist now should be an indicator that Snyder isn’t an honest broker when it comes to closing a business deal smoothly. If he was, he’d already have secured a litany of trademarks and logos in anticipation that this day could happen. He’d have prepared for it over the last few years, if not the last decade. He’d have given himself some options to keep this clean and quick.

Only he didn’t. Snyder forced it to be messy, taking something that could have been a forward-thinking, progressive moment and turning it into a showdown with sponsors who were carrying the collective weight of nearly $620 billion in investment power. That’s the same guy who the NFL is depending on now to make this whole thing happen in an expeditious fashion.

The same Snyder who once chose to tell USA Today in 2013 that he would NEVER change the “Redskins” nickname, adding in a little spice: “You can use caps,” for that declaration, he said.

What Snyder apparently meant was that “NEVER” is not an ironclad term and can be penetrated by money. As in “I’d NEVER change the name unless monolithic moneymaking conglomerates threaten to NEVER do business with me in the future.” In that kind of case, a forceful NEVER can give way to a passive-aggressive “SOMETIMES.”

So here we are. But not before Snyder has already sent out one more news release on Redskins letterhead, complete with a soon-to-be-retired logo that still stands on NFL platforms.

This is where the league has to step in. Never mind the trademark entanglements that will surely drag this out even longer. Never mind that the team is saying it has begun the process of change. The NFL can get the process moving on its own by wiping its properties of Washington's nickname and logo right now. And it should. Because Snyder has shown the language that motivates him most effectively is the kind that weighs on his bottom line rather than echoing inside his ears.

The next step in speaking to him effectively is taking a scrub brush to anything the NFL owns or touches — making it clear this isn’t a retirement party. It’s a termination of the logo and nickname that has been long overdue. And it’s time to get it started, whether Snyder is on board or not.

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