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At long last, the Washington Football Team will announce its new name Feb. 2.
The franchise will have spent over 18 months between names after retiring “Redskins” as its official team identity in July 2020. Over that time, Washington has conducted a far-reaching search that’s included combing through more than 40,000 fan surveys, conducting focus groups and investigations into the legal ramifications of top options.
Washington co-owner and CEO Tanya Snyder confirmed a list of eight finalists for the new name in September: Armada, Presidents, Brigade, Red Hogs, Commanders, Red Wolves, Defenders and the Washington Football Team. However, a team spokesperson later clarified that her list didn’t necessarily reflect the organization’s final candidates. Team President Jason Wright has given only three hints: No Native American references, their colors will remain burgundy and gold, and Red Wolves is off the table.
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We’ve got an update on a popular name option, a sneak peek at the jerseys and a confirmed announcement date pic.twitter.com/IeSnetFebq
Here’s everything we know about the names being considered.
As mentioned above, Washington has already announced it won’t be selecting the fan-favorite option Red Wolves due to legal issues standing in the way of the name. Wright wrote in a letter to fans, “Once we began looking into Wolves, however, we became aware of a notable challenge: trademarks held by other teams would limit our ability to make the name our own. And without Wolves, variations like RedWolves wouldn’t have been viable either for these and other reasons.”
The name was one of the first potential options to gain traction when the team announced it would be undergoing a rebrand. Former Washington cornerback Fred Smoot was among those leading the charge, envisioning a FedEx Field crowd howling in unison when its favorite team ran onto the field.
The name Commanders has emerged as a popular prediction among fans and local media members for the team’s new identity.
For starters, Washington provided a glimpse at its new jerseys that will be unveiled in full along with the name Feb. 2. Those jerseys will include three stars all in a row, seemingly a nod to the three stars on the D.C. flag. But what else has three stars? The U.S. Army’s badge for lieutenant general, among its highest levels of command. The symbol is synonymous with top commanders across the military branches.
This is the glimpse Washington provided of its new uniforms, to go with narration from Doug Williams: “You just got the number and the uniform, stripes around the shoulders and that’s it.” pic.twitter.com/7y3L1qWI7h
In its teaser video (embedded above) announcing Feb. 2 as its reveal date, the Washington Football Team included a clip of Wright sitting with a blurred-out piece of paper next to him. But when the video aired on the team-produced “Washington Football Today” show on NBC Sports Washington two days later, the blur was gone and the Commanders namesake and seal were visible.
Do yâall think this is the official new logo of the Washington Commanders?
â#WFT #WashingtonFootball pic.twitter.com/x72n2c5EPm
In addition, the website WashingtonCommanders.com currently pulls up a 404 error when typed into a browser. A closer look at the domain shows that it was registered July 3, 2020, the same day the team announced it would be conducting an investigation into whether it needed to change its name.
The franchise’s connection to the name “Hogs” dates back to the early 1980s when the then-Redskins boasted one of the best offensive lines in the sport. Fans embraced the nickname, forming a group called the “Hogettes” that wore pig snouts to games even after Washington’s dynasty finished its run. One of the most popular blogs that covers the team is none other than Hogs Haven.
Wright told the Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan in January 2021 that Washington wanted the new name to convey “a sense of aggression, of boldness, of edginess” on and off the field. These names certainly fit the bill in that regard, and they’re not “some random-[expletive] bird mascot,” either.
The name Washington Defenders hasn’t been a popular one in the rumor mill, but it was confirmed by Wright as a name the team considered during the selection process. One major roadblock standing in the way of Washington using the name is the presence — or perhaps, the potential presence — of the XFL’s DC Defenders.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the XFL to cancel its 2020 season before it was all the way through, a major setback for the professional football league that was attempting a reboot 19 years after its initial launch. The XFL has plans of returning in 2023 and the DC Defenders would presumably resume their place as one of eight teams across the U.S. competing in the league.
Amid all the speculation, one journalist claims to know exactly what Washington’s next name will be. WFAN New York’s Boomer Esiason said on his radio show on Jan. 5 that the new name will be Washington Admirals, a theory that gained traction after it was discovered that WashingtonAdmirals.com redirected to the team’s official website.
Yet the site has since been modified to instead send users to the NFL’s cancer research fundraiser Crucial Catch. Any website can be set up to redirect people to another site of the owner’s choosing, so the fact that the two are linked doesn’t prove anything. The domain has been under its current ownership since 2008.
There is also already a Major League Quidditch team named the Washington Admirals based in D.C., so take that as you will.
Lumping Armada and Brigade together because they’re similar in that both names are a singular noun — something that would be unique in the NFL — and they relate back to the military. Between Brigade, Armada, Commanders and Admirals, it’s clear Washington felt strongly about at least considering a tie to the armed forces. The team would also be the only NFL franchise with a connection to the military in its name, unless you count the Patriots.
It doesn’t get much more D.C. than Washington Presidents. Washington-area sports teams have embraced sharing a neighborhood with the Commander in Chief for decades, notably in baseball where the Senators and later the Nationals invited presidents to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day. The Nationals also have a Racing Presidents promotion where mascots dressed as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt race around the field during games.
Wright has stated on multiple occasions that the team wants its new name to represent the entire DMV, not just D.C. Though Virginia does have a connection to the presidency: Eight different presidents were born in the Commonwealth, the most of any state. There has not yet been a president born in Maryland.
Before the team announced that it would be using the name Washington Football Team for a second-straight year, Wright told ESPN that he got the sense the temporary name was growing on some members of the fan base.
“There are a set of folks that have warmed to the Washington Football Team,” Wright said, as quoted by ESPN. “Some of the things that are emerging from that are the Washington Football Team has something that ties deeply to our history. It feels like that isn’t jettisoning all the things we have been in the past, whereas something that’s completely new might feel that way.”
The name has remained on the public lists that team officials have confirmed, including Tanya Snyder’s most-recent list of eight candidates.
Long before the franchise announced it would be changing its name, a fan-designed logo for the “Washington Redtails” won second place in a nationwide graphic design contest. The image circulated on social media and resurfaced when the team started the rebranding process. The name honors the Tuskegee Airmen, a unit of all African-American pilots in a segregated United States military during World War II that famously painted the tails of their planes red.
An Alabama-based nonprofit named after the historic pilots told Time Magazine in July 2020 it “would be honored and pleased to work with” the team if it decided to pursue the name, though it didn’t immediately garner the support of all the surviving pilots. Neither Wright nor Tanya Snyder have directly addressed whether Redtails is still in the running. It was included on the team’s website in a list of fan-submitted ideas but hasn’t been mentioned in any official announcements since.
This one also wasn’t included in the list Tanya Snyder confirmed, but it was a popular suggestion among fans that hoped Washington would stay with the Native American theme moving forward. However, Wright announced that the team wanted to avoid any connection to the Native American community in the new name last summer and specifically ruled out Warriors for that reason.
“There’s been so many twists and turns,” Wright said on the Pat McAfee Show in August. “I wrote recently, a few weeks back, on how we weren’t going to go with the name ‘Warriors.’ Which, for me, was an early favorite. I liked it. I thought it had so many aspects of what would work for this franchise, what Ron wanted built on the field, it would help our business.
“But when we talked to the native and indigenous community, they said, ‘Look, bruh, it’s not going to work. It’s too close. The history is too close. You can go there, but you can be dead right.’ We prioritized listening to them.”
Correction: A previous version of this story described lieutenant general as the highest level of command in the U.S. Army. The wording was adjusted shortly after publishing.