Professional team name changes put on pressure

Paul Czarnecki 

pczarnec@uccs.edu 

     The modern era of sports nomenclature has begun, as professional sports teams continue to change their team names and correct mistakes in order to contribute to a cleaner experience for fans. 

     Most recently, the Washington Football Team, formerly known as the “Washington Redskins,” will greet the NFL with a new name, one that has yet to be decided by team president Jason Wright and the remainder of the front office. 

     Since the football team retired their “Redskins” persona preceding the 2019-2020 NFL season, Wright’s mindset has been simple: brainstorm a new, unproblematic name for Washington to use by the 2022 regular season. 

     During a July press conference following a team practice, Wright expressed his desire to not include any connection to Native Americans, as it got them in trouble with their previous logo and name. 

     “This engagement demonstrated to us a consensus that moving forward with no ties to Native American imagery is the right path,” Wright said. He also excluded the name “Warriors” from being a possibility for the new name. 

     However, WFT owner Dan Snyder’s wife Tanya Snyder spoke on prominent NFL insider Adam Schefter’s podcast, where she revealed the eight finalists for Washington’s new moniker: Red Hogs, Defenders, Commanders, Armada, Brigade, Redwolves, Presidents, and Washington Football Team. 

     Washington will become the 11th NFL team in history to change their name, but only one of two to change it without being an expansion team or relocating cities (such as the Tennessee Oilers changing to the Tennessee Titans). 

     The Washington Football Team is not the only sports team that has had to rebrand to alternate recognition, though. In fact, an MLB team had to do the exact same this past season. 

     The “Cleveland Indians,” similarly to Washington, removed their logo and namesake, doing a 180-degree turn on their franchise’s history in calling themselves the Cleveland Guardians, which they will debut in the 2022 MLB season. 

     Many baseball enthusiasts saw the nickname as racist and derogatory, emphasizing how Chief Wahoo, the retired logo depicting a Native American, was insensitive. 

     The Guardians’ nickname pays homage to a series of art statues outside the Hope National Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio, conveniently placed almost directly outside the stadium. 

     Guardians, however, was close to not becoming Cleveland’s new nickname, as a roller derby team from Cleveland with the same name filed a lawsuit against the MLB organization, alleging trademark infringement on the front office. 

     Eventually, though, the sides reached an “amicable resolution” and both teams ended up keeping their names.  

     Sometimes in the sports world, fans will reject the new names that cities have come up with, leading to a variety of positive and negative nickname changes over the years. 

     For example, fans were ecstatic over the rebranding of the Houston Colt .45s to the Houston Astros but were let down when the Washington Bullets revealed themselves as the Washington Wizards the following season. 

     In another instance, the new Charlotte Hornets name, as opposed to the old Charlotte Bobcats, was met with resounding support from North Carolinians, but Tampa Bay fans were distraught with dropping the “Devil” in Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  

     The new period of athletics has seen a high amount of change within sports denomination, with two consecutive years of teams having to remove their names for various reasons. It now lies in the hands of front offices and fans to appease the sports world. 

The Washington Football Team in a huddle at a game against the Los Angeles Rams. Photo courtesy of Patrick McDermott / Getty Images File.