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To be salty or not to be salty…

January 10, 2022, 2:45 PM

Recently, news came out that the Washington Football Team, formerly known as the Washington Redskins, would unveil a new permanent name and logo for the team on February 2For those not familiar with the story behind this, the team had been criticized for many years over its “Redskins” branding, being considered racist against Native Americans.  Team owner Dan Snyder had publicly declined to change the name of the team whenever the issue would come up.  And for Snyder, that made enough sense.  As long as the fans were still buying, there was no real reason to change the name.  On one occasion when the issue came up, as it tended to do from time to time, local commentator Chris Core said in one of his commentaries on WTOP that it wasn’t really a matter of “if” but rather “when”, and that given enough time, the name would eventually be changed.  I saw it similarly to the way that Core saw it, that the name would eventually change, but only when it became a drag on the team’s profitability, i.e. once the “Redskins” name wasn’t raking in the cash anymore, it would be dropped.

However, I did not like what some of the more “woke” local news sites did when it came to showing their disdain for the “Redskins” name, though, calling the team by anything but their actual name.  Some called it the “Washington Football Team” (well before the team formally adopted that name), and some called them the “Washington Pigskins”.  I don’t know about you, but I expect my news organizations to present a fairly dry reporting of facts, without any opining in news articles.  I don’t care what the writer thinks about the subject that is being reported on in a news piece – just give me the facts.  Their own thoughts on the news belongs in the opinion section, and not a part of the news.  In other words, as long as the team was formally known as “Redskins”, then you call them the Redskins, no matter what you think about the name.

In any case, that time when the name was no longer profitable for the team came in the summer of 2020.  In the wake of the protests over the killing of George Floyd, and the subsequent wave of renamings to purge racist themes from our cultural landscape (this included the rebranding of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s products, as both were considered to use racist names and imagery), the Redskins’ corporate sponsors did what various activists had never been able to accomplish over years of trying, and forced Dan Snyder to dump the “Redskins” name by threatening to pull their sponsorship of the team if the name remained.  Unsurprisingly, the name disappeared overnight, and was replaced by “Washington Football Team” as a provisional name until they could come up with something better.  The colors remained the usual Redskins burgundy and gold, but the “Redskins” name and branding was gone, with a promise of a proper name in the future.

Getting rid of the “Redskins” name was only half of the battle, though, and also the easiest step.  The other, much harder part of it is to come up with a new identity for the team that looks good on them going forward.  That part concerns me more than getting rid of the old name, because it’s going to set the tone of the team for the foreseeable future, and signal some values for a long time to come.  Therefore, I feel like it is important that the Washington Football Team not screw this one up, but I have no faith that they won’t screw it up and come up with something that will make them look salty about not being able to use the “Redskins” name anymore.  I’ve seen a number of names tossed around over the years, and too many of them come off as not enough of a change, i.e. the “Washington We-Can’t-Call-Ourselves-the-Redskins-Anymore”.  One of the names that got tossed around by the opponents of the old name a long time ago was “Washington Warriors”, which epitomizes the “salty” idea.  It is close enough to the old name that it makes you think about it, which makes everyone involved look salty about losing the old name.  Thankfully, this name did not make any of the more recent lists, so it’s safe to say that it’s not a contender (which is a good thing).

One thing that I’ve thought about this for a while is that the team should make a complete clean break from their past identity.  Leave all of the trappings of “Redskins” behind.  That means a new name, a new mascot, and new team colors.  Unfortunately, though, the team seems to be unwilling to go the whole nine yards on that, as it’s been made quite clear that they’re sticking with the whole burgundy-and-gold color scheme.  It makes this meme, which pokes fun at the team’s inability to win a championship in thirty years, still relevant today:

"DISTRICT OF (NOT YOU) CHAMPIONS"

If they want to continue to embrace the color scheme of a mediocre football team that’s pretty adept at losing, then more power to them, I suppose.  I would have changed the color scheme along with everything else, taking the opportunity to ditch the burgundy for a bright red color scheme, in order to make a more regionwide branding for all of the big pro sports teams in the DC area, which, for the most part, use red as their main color.  Burgundy is a little bit different compared to the others.

As far as the names go, this is one of the lists of finalists that I’ve seen:

  • Armada
  • Brigade
  • Commanders
  • Defenders
  • Presidents
  • Red Wolves
  • Redhawks
  • Washington Football Team

I admit that none of those names make me say “Oh, wow,” but there are some that I hate less than others.  As far as I’m concerned, anything with “Red” in it should be categorically dismissed, because it makes them look salty about their old name.  And if they’re talking about a name to last for the next 90 years and beyond, i.e. forever as far as most people reading this are concerned, salty is not a good look to carry on for generations.  We already know that “Red Wolves” (and anything else to do with wolves) is out on account of trademark issues, but with “Redhawks”, the first reaction is going to be, “Oh, you mean the Redskins?” and that’s what we don’t want, because it immediately brings to mind the old identity of the team, which has a lot of baggage attached to it.  Some of the other names are just uninspiring, like “Armada”, “Brigade”, or “Commanders”.  “Defenders” to me cements the idea that they’re not charging forward, but constantly on the defensive, i.e. they’re not winners.  “Presidents” makes me think of what the Nationals use as their mascots, and that could get confusing.  Meanwhile, “Washington Football Team” is the name that they’re using now, and if they’re going through with the whole charade of doing a reveal of a permanent identity, I doubt it would be that clunky name.  You wouldn’t announce a big reveal date and then go, “Hey, we’re making our temporary name permanent!”  I would be very surprised if that ended up being the permanent name.  If they went that way, it would also come off as a massive middle finger to everyone, as if to say that everyone is too sensitive for the team to have a proper name, and therefore they have to use the most generic name possible.  It’s also the ultimate demonstration of saltiness about the name, i.e. choosing no name at all over their old name.  We don’t want that, but I also suspect that it won’t happen.

As far as rebrandings go, the former Redskins should really have looked to Staunton as an example of how to do a rebranding correctly.  In 2019, what was then Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton was renamed to Staunton High School, which came after a new school board was elected that campaigned on the issue of renaming the high school.  Prior to the renaming, the school competed under the name “Fighting Leemen” and used a royal blue color.  With the renaming, the school’s new nickname became “Staunton Storm“, and the color changed to a navy blue color rather than a royal blue.  It’s a completely different identity that befits a new name for the school, and makes a clean break from the past.  The old Fighting Leemen will pass into history as the students that went to the school as Lee High graduate, and the new name does not bring the old name to mind in the least.

So all in all, I suppose we’ll all find out together what happens with this whole football name thing.  It should be amusing to see what they come up with as well as what the reaction to it ends up being.  I have no faith in their not screwing this up, but I’m willing to be surprised.  And for the record, I still have zero interest in the game itself, but these sorts of things, where teams butt up against the public on more public-facing issues, pique my interest.

Categories: DC area local news