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The Washington Football Team said Wednesday that after nearly two years of consideration it would be changing its name to the Commanders.
The team’s president, Jason Wright, and coach, Ron Rivera, had said during the name search that the team wanted to incorporate the military because of its connection to the nation’s capital, ESPN reported.
One legacy. One unified future.
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) February 2, 2022
“As an organization, we are excited to rally and rise together as one under our new identity while paying homage to our local roots and what it means to represent the nation’s capital,” team owner Dan Snyder said in a statement. “As we kick-off our 90th season, it is important for our organization and fans to pay tribute to our past traditions, history, legacy and the greats that came before us. We continue to honor and represent the Burgundy & Gold while forging a pathway to a new era in Washington. Today may mark the first day for the Washington Commanders, but we are and always will be Washington.”
The team, which was known as the Washington Redskins for 87 years, began its search for a new name in July 2020 when a racial reckoning swept through the U.S. after the murder of George Floyd. Critics called the team’s old moniker offensive and racist toward Native Americans.
The franchise announced on July 3, 2020 it would launch a review of its former name. After ten days, it announced it would retire its previous name and would go by the “Washington Football Team” until a permanent name was chosen.
While Snyder had said for years he would not change the name, that position shifted after Redskins sponsor FedEx publicly requested that the team change its name on July 2, 2020 and threatened to remove company signage from the team’s stadium if the change was not carried out.
The move would cost the team $45 million in revenue. That same day, Nike stopped marketing Redskins merchandise, and Pepsi and Bank of America also gave their support to a name change.
Meanwhile, a 2016 poll by the Washington Post found that nine in ten Native Americans were not offended by the name, although some consider the name to be a racial slur.
Crystal Echo Hawk, executive director of the nonprofit organization IllumiNative, called Wednesday’s announcement a “momentous moment” and said they can “put a horrible chapter to rest. There’s still a lot of healing that needs to happen, so I don’t think the team’s work in regards to reconciliation and healing is over.”
“The NFL is not done,” Crystal Echo Hawk added. “The [Kansas City] Chiefs have to step up and follow the lead and be on the right side of history. Washington has shown these rebrandings can be successful. This is a good thing. All eyes turn to the Chiefs.”