Dan Snyder

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder walks the sidelines during a game in Philadelphia in 2015.

When the University of North Dakota moved on from being the Fighting Sioux like Washington’s NFL team is doing from Redskins, the new name could’ve been anything.

More than 1,600 suggestions were submitted, ranging from the realistic to the ridiculous, like the “Abominable Snowman.”

After agreeing to “retire” the Redskins brand on Monday, owner Dan Snyder isn’t welcoming that long list of suggestions, though what he and the organization do next will determine how the team is perceived for decades.

“Here’s where I think the fun begins and the work begins,” said Brand Federation founding partner and CEO Kelly O’Keefe, who was on North Dakota’s name change task force. “To just pop out with a new name is not the right answer. The right answer is to build a process that starts to allow these people to be heard in the process of developing a new name.”

Snyder and coach Ron Rivera are already at work developing what the team called “a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition-rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years.”

After 87 years as the Redskins, Red Tails, Red Clouds, Red Wolves and Hogs are among the betting favorites for the new name. The organization is working quietly to try to roll out a fresh moniker and logo in time for the 2020 season.

Washington’s NFL team practices and is headquartered in Ashburn.

Sports business and marketing experts consider feedback from fans, endorsements from current players and alumni and on-field success as three crucial elements no matter what the new name winds up being.

“The mere fact that they’re changing the name is going to elicit some backlash, and they need to be ready for that and be comfortable with it,” Virginia Tech professor Nneka Logan said.

“Beyond that, I think it’s important they and other organizations engage with your local community, engage with the Native American community, engage with all of your stakeholders in the process of the name change and ensure that it’s something that authentically aligns with your corporation’s values.”

Rivera said his hope was to continuing honoring and supporting Native Americans and the military. If Warriors — the name of Snyder’s proposed Arena Football League team from 2002 — is now out of consideration, Red Tails would fit the bill as a nod to the Black fighter pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II. Tuskegee Airmen Inc. said it “would be honored and pleased to work with the organization” if that’s Washington’s new name.

Former Washington linebacker Will Compton voiced his support for Red Wolves by saying he liked that name so much he’d want to return for a day. Hogs would pay tribute to the famed offensive line that bulldozed the team to three Super Bowl titles.

O’Keefe had hoped the organization would engage the community in the name selection because, like North Dakota with the Fighting Hawks, feeling a part of the process builds acceptance of the name. Perhaps just as importantly, it could prevent missing on a name like the NBA’s Bullets did when changing to the Wizards in the mid-1990s.

“You don’t want to mess this up, so they really need to take it seriously,” Carnegie Mellon associate professor of marketing and strategy Tim Derdenger said. “If you come out with the wrong name, the wrong pitch to your fans and it gets squashed, it’s really hard to recover from that.”

One way to not stray far from tradition is to avoid the kind of wholesale change that happened when the Wizards replaced red, white and blue with teal, gold and black.

With all due respect to failed coach Jim Zorn’s mistake of calling Washington’s football colors “maroon and black,” the burgundy and gold are a huge part of team history.

“I think in a lot of ways, the reference to the burgundy and gold is as big, if not bigger than the name and the image on the helmet,” Georgetown adjunct professor of sports marketing and business Marty Conway said. “The pride and the tradition of Sonny Jurgensen and others wearing that burgundy and gold uniform on Sunday I think is a strong image in people’s minds.”

With Conway estimating it’ll cost the league and team tens of millions of dollars to buy back merchandise, keeping the colors the same would help ease the transition with less than two months to the scheduled start of the season.

When games are back, Washington might struggle no matter what it’s called, but those results in the coming years will determine how popular this move is.

“It’s going to take time to come back to the heyday of Washington winning and having full stadiums and people really supporting them,” Derdenger said. “It’s going to take a long time for this new branded team to get to that point, but it’s certainly possible. And you know what helps them get to that point quicker is if they win.”

(15) comments

LetFreedomRing

Just change their mascot to a potato and keep the name. Problem solved.

I have no skin in the game (no pun intended). I stopped watching and supporting the NFL over two seasons ago when the league decided to allow their fields and their brand to be used as a political stage for radical leftists activism. Having said that, it’s become obvious that Native Americans are not offended by the name of a football team who call themselves the “Redskins.” The majority of Native Americans who have spoken agree that “Redskins” is not offensive when used as a prideful identity of a local sports team. The only people who take issue with the name are elitist white liberals who insist on fabricating “causes” that they can fight for to make their pathetic lives feel meaningful.

Voltaire

LetFreedomRing--you need to take your idea up with the Idaho Potato Commission in Boise as they already have a potato as a mascot. His name is "Spuddy". They also have a copyright on that idea/name.

LetFreedomRing

Voltaire - Darn... and here I thought my idea was original. What kind of potato is Spuddy? Unless he’s (do root vegetables have gender identities?) a redskin potato, the Washington football team should be able to claim that particular variety as their official mascot. Hail to the Redskin Potatoes!

Voltaire

LetFreedomRing--I don't think Spuddy is a "redskin" potato. I think he (guessing its a "he" by its name) is an Idaho russet potato.

WesternSky

How about the "Mighty Conquerors"?

doverboy

Stephen, If you are going to use historical background as a premise to your story, at least get the name of the proposed mascot for UND correct. The suggestion was Abominable Snowmen, not Abdominal Snowmen. Does anyone proof read any longer?

monkeysee

I think the writer was quoting verbatim one of the suggested team names. The misspelling is not likely attributable to the writer, but to the person the writer quoted.

monkeysee

Team icons are symbols that both players and fans alike are proud of, and wouldn't be something that would be intentionally derisive. Redskins were, and are, mighty warriors. What better symbol to represent your team than one that instills a sense of fierce competition and pride?

So, what's next? Renaming streets and buildings and cities, and removing monuments and statues will never be enough. If racism is constantly on your mind, that is what you will find. One cannot stop from seeing what one is constantly looking for. Stop the victim mentality. Stop looking for ways to be offended.

It's sad to see that the owner caved to pressure by sponsors. A decision that was made out of fear of losing money from those sponsorships. Some things are more important than money.

Lawman

Absolutely. Offensive names are going away.

David Dickinson

And then what will you complain about?

LetSanityPrevail

How about Team One and start a trend, sort of like Dr. Seuss' characters Thing One, Thing Two.

At this point no names that denote any race, creed, religion, ethnicity should be considered even if it is considered an honor. It will just cause dissension at some point so why open up the team again to criticism in 5 or 10 years time.

Well Water Person

How about the "DEADSKINS" for a lackluster, hasbeen team.

pittguy20

DEADSKINS is a true good one. How about The Washington Crooks. Lawmakers are asking clothing Manufacturers to make the Pockets Deeper.

BobOhneiserEsq

Suggest everyone who has a closet full of Washington Redskins clothing drop them off at Good Shepherd Alliance stores and get a tax deduction while they still have some provable value. In this way the homeless in Loudoun can get a benefit. Considering how often players change teams I suggest hesitation in buying any new "SNYDER" profit clothing with a new name as this seems to be his incentive to go along with the public outcry. Finally this is a good lesson for all organizations that promote color or include color as part of their name. Isn't it time unless you really don't support EQUALITY. Begging/demanding preference is discriminatory just as much as discriminating based on bias. In my opinion it is time to stop ALL discrimination no matter how cleverly it is cloaked. Lets promote unity and boycott all hate speech no matter who is pushing it! :-)

Voltaire

Bob--really? I would suggest the opposite as the value of those items would go up as sports memorabilia collectors would want to buy them. I also don't think that Dan Synder, who made his fortune in marketing, would be stupid enough to put out any type of clothing line until the team decides on a new name.

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