Earlier this week, the franchise long known as the Washington Redskins announced that, after the completion of an investigation into their name, they would be changing their name. The franchise did not make clear any future name or a timescale, but the pivot away from an insensitive name was nevertheless due and is a major moment for professional sports. To discuss the monumental name change, I talked to DC sports expert and creator of The Wildcard blog, Joe Pohoryles.
John Riker: The Washington football franchise announced that it is changing its name. How did we get to this point?
Joe Pohoryles: In terms of changing the name itself, it was pretty quick. They’ve been calling for it to change for a while but there wasn’t any real momentum a month or two ago. For [owner Dan] Snyder and most owners in general, money is the one thing that will affect change for the most part. Once the minority owners were talking about selling their shares and different merchandise outlets were stopping sales, once that all happened it all unraveled from there.
JR: In the days since the news came out, what has been your immediate reaction?
JP: It’s due. It’s complicated because there are so many different opinions about it and especially Native Americans, I’ve seen some that despise the name and have wanted it to change and some that view it a different way, so it’s interesting to see how they think about it. Personally I don’t care if they change it or they don’t, that was sort of my mentality. If they want to change it, fine if that’s the right thing to do. If they didn’t change it, I wouldn’t be outraged because I know it’s a split issue among those who are affected by it, but it was probably fine to get rid of it.
JR: As a fan of the franchise, is it a mix of emotions to be moving on from the name the team has had for as long as you can remember?
JP: I don’t think it will really set in until they get a new one. For now, it’s in limbo. I know that it’s changing, but it won’t become real until they take a new name and I see what the new uniforms and logos look like. For now, it hasn’t been much of a shock, it’s waiting to see what happens.
JR: Where would you like to see the team go name-wise?
JP: I’m on the youth bandwagon for the Red Wolves, that seems to be the main younger fan choice on social media. They could do a lot of cool things with that. Warriors has been floated around, too. I would be fine with that, but I think they want to move away from the Native American depictions. I’ve heard Red Tails too, I’m not crazy about that one. But those three are the ones I’d prefer at least, with the Red Wolves on top.
JR: Do you think there is an immediate impetus for them to change everything before the season starts?
JP: I don’t know what’s possible legally. One thing they could have done to ease pressure off themselves is to say “after the 2020 season, we will be changing the name.” I think that would have bought them more time and appeased some of the fans that don’t want to see it changed, because for them the rug has been swept out from under them. It would have given one more year for those who didn’t want to see the name changed to send it off. There are some who would say that it needs to be changed as soon as possible. Waiting a year wouldn’t be terrible, but if they can do it before the 2020 season, then that’s perfectly fine.
JR: Do you see the name change having other implications, such as perception and stadium location?
JP: I hope this means the stadium goes back to actual D.C. proper. I think it would be cool to have all three [stadiums] in the same city. As much as I hate their sports teams, I think Philadelphia’s situation with the stadiums sharing the same parking lot is pretty cool to have. Just having them in downtown Washington is good enough. That would be pretty cool and make it a lot easier to get to games for those who want to go. I haven’t been to a game since 2013. FedEx is not a good stadium, and I don’t feel like supporting Snyder monetarily any more, but for other fans it would be good to have it moved downtown. For the new name, I think whatever the new name is will become normal once people get used to it after another 10, 20 years or so.
JR: Finish the sentence: this is the Washington franchise’s best moment since…
JP: I’d say since 2012, if I wanted to be generous. That was the first time they won the division and there was optimism around the team. To stretch further back, 91 or 92. I guess there were some other decent moments between those two times. I think in 2012 there was real optimism around the future of the team and the pieces they had, specifically RGIII. Personally I’d say 2012, but you could also say 92.