- The Washington Times
Tuesday, July 7, 2020

If the Washington Redskins decide to change their name following a “thorough review” of its appropriateness, there will be no shortage of ideas for replacements.

ESPN reporter Adam Schefter’s tweet Friday asking followers to share their name and mascot ideas received more than 25,000 replies in less than a week.

So far, the Redskins have kept their leading options close to the vest. But we may already have a big hint.

“This issue is of personal importance to me, and I look forward to working closely with [owner] Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting Native Americans and our military,” coach Ron Rivera said Friday in a statement.

He reiterated that stance in comments to The Washington Post, saying the name should honor both groups. Rivera said he and Snyder have brainstormed a few ideas, with two in particular that he really likes.

With that in mind, here are three of the most commonly floated names — and a look at whether they fit Rivera’s suggested criteria.

The Washington Warriors

This seems to be the most popular option, and radio host Kevin Sheehan reported he had it on “pretty good authority” that “Warriors” was the leading contender.

The Warriors moniker does appear to satisfy both of Rivera’s requirements. According to the National Native Americans Veterans Memorial, nearly 19% of American Indians have served in the armed forces since 9/11 — a larger percentage than any other ethnicity. American Indians also have served in every war since the Revolutionary War, according to the group.

If there is a problem with the name, it would be that it’s already used by the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. That doesn’t disqualify from Washington using it — just look at the NFL’s New York Giants and MLB’s San Francisco Giants — but it does take away from the excitement of a new identity.

“I think they would probably try to find a brand that stands out,” said Stephen McDaniel, an associate professor at the University of Maryland who studies sports and entertainment marketing. “The [Golden State] Warriors have been such a successful and positive and visible brand in the last few years that they might want to stay away from that.”

It’s also possible to design a logo with Warriors that wouldn’t involve American Indian imagery, an issue important to some activists. Golden State’s logo, for instance, carries no connection to American Indian symbols, despite the fact that it used to contain a cartoonish drawing of a American Indian man when the franchise was the Philadelphia Warriors.

The Washington Redhawks

Many fans were stunned to read news articles from ESPN and Sports Illustrated in December 2017 that proclaimed the Redskins had changed their name to the Redhawks. Those articles turned out to be deep fakes, produced as part of a stunt by the Rising Hearts Coalition, a D.C.-based group of American Indian activists calling for a name change.

The articles were spoofs, but their preference for “Redhawks” was real — they even made T-shirts with a Redhawks logo design.

The hawk is an important symbol in the American Indian tradition. A Lakota Sioux chief bore the name Red Hawk, as does the Redhawk Native American Arts Council in New York. There is also precedent for the move at the college level: Miami University in Ohio changed its name and mascot from Redskins to Redhawks in 1997.

On the other hand, this option has no obvious connection to the military. It also may be too similar to another NFL team’s name, the Seattle Seahawks.

The Washington Redtails

The term “redtails” can carry a dual meaning that Snyder and Rivera might find alluring.

During World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black aviators in U.S. military history, painted the tails of their planes red to distinguish themselves. It earned the group the nickname “Red Tails.” D.C. Council member David Grosso proposed renaming the team to Redtails in a resolution back in 2013. And some fan-made logo designs featuring a plane have circulated around social media, gaining traction in recent days.

But the name also can refer to red-tailed hawks, a particular species honored in American Indian culture. The hawks’ feathers are sometimes used in American Indian ceremonies.

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins said he was a fan of switching to Redtails, and oddsmakers like BetOnline have the name as a 3-1 favorite.

Other options

Some other options BetOnline listed — the Washington Lincolns, the Washington Monuments — were roundly mocked on social media. The option with the second-best odds, the Washington Generals, would copy the exhibition basketball team that used to always lose to the Harlem Globetrotters.

The Generals, of course, would honor the military while not having a pronounced connection to American Indian culture. But Rivera’s criteria aren’t set in stone, and some say it would be better for the franchise to avoid continued connection to American Indians.

“Maybe completely moving on from [American Indian ties] is an easier rebrand, in a way, because I think it’s a very difficult thing to do when you’re appropriating from another culture or ethnicity,” McDaniel said.

Lisa Delpy Neirotti, director of the sport management master’s program at George Washington University, added that a new identity won’t be a big problem if Washington starts to win again.

“The big thing is, if the team can win, everyone forgets. Who cares what the name is if my team can win?” Delpy Neirotti said. “So I really think winning can cure all. But in this case, since they haven’t been winning, I think Dan still has that image of that name having this whole championship aura. But they haven’t won for so long that now is a good time to make this change.”

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