The Washington Redskins were once one of the NFL’s most prestigious franchises. Under the tutelage of NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, the Redskins won three Super Bowl titles with three different starting quarterbacks (Joe Theismann, Doug Williams, and Mark Rypien). Those championship days are long gone, as the Redskins’ recent history has been filled with numerous underwhelming top draft picks and high-profile free agency busts.
And then there’s the nickname. The term “Redskins” can be construed as a slur against Native Americans. There has been calls for team owner Daniel M. Snyder to change the name. The most telling statement from Snyder came during a 2013 interview with USA Today. In that interview, Snyder was quoted as saying “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER-you can use caps.” It was a defiant stance from a multibillionaire and lifelong Redskins’ fan determined to do things his way.
On Friday, Snyder announced that the team will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name. On the surface, this sounds like the franchise will change its nickname. Let’s inspect this a little further. While the announcement promises a thorough review, public sentiment won’t be part of that process. Secondly, the franchise will conduct a thorough review that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the name will be changed.
It should be noted that the Redskins have lost sponsorship deals with Nike and Fed Ex in part because of their team nickname. While no determination from Snyder has been made as of press time, one could reason that the loss of these major sponsorships definitely streamlines thoughts of changing the team’s nickname.
That really doesn’t matter as the Redskins’ franchise has been mired in irrelevance for several decades. They haven’t won a Super Bowl title in almost 30 years, and it’s been fifteen years since their last playoff win. Washington hired head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to turn around the team’s fortunes. Changing the team nickname doesn’t erase the Redskins’ NFL legacy. A possible name change won’t transcend an on field product still trying to gain some efficiency. But it could go a long way towards establishing a new legacy that could shift public sentiment in their favor.