Washington’s NFL team announce new name will be the Commanders

Washington’s NFL team has ended its 18-month search for a new name with the announcement that the franchise will now be known as the Commanders.

The team dropped its old nickname in July 2020 amid pressure from sponsors. The franchise had faced decades of complaints that its former name was racist towards Native American. For the last two seasons, the franchise had been known simply as the Washington Football Team.

The team had also considered Admirals, Armada, Brigade, Sentinels, Defenders, Red Hogs and Presidents as new names. One option popular with fans, RedWolves, was dropped because the trademark was owned by another organization. Team president Jason Wright and coach Ron Rivera had said they wanted to incorporate a military theme to the team’s new name because of the armed forces’ links to the capital. The name is also a reference to the US President, also known as the commander-in-chief.

“This new identity embodies the most powerful aspects of Washington’s story by paying tribute to the team’s rich history and championship culture, personified by mission-driven players who take command, forge success and break barriers on and off the field,” the team said in a statement.

Ray Halbritter, the nation representative and CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, said the new name would benefit Native Americans.

“They’ll no longer be subjected to such an offensive and harmful slur every Sunday during the football season,” Halbritter said. “It’s a great moment for Washington fans. They want to support a team, to love a team, and now they won’t be put in position having to do that with a dictionary-defined slur as a name.”

Washington was the first team in the four major North American professional sports leagues to move away from Native American imagery amid a national reckoning on race. Cleveland in Major League Baseball followed suit, adopting the new name Guardians that is now in effect after settling a lawsuit with a roller derby team by the same name.

MLB’s Atlanta Braves, the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks have defended keeping their names.

Washington has not had success on or off the field in recent years. The league fined the team $10m after an investigation into workplace conduct, owner Dan Snyder squabbled with minority partners before buying out their shares, the front office took criticism last year for botching late safety Sean Taylor’s jersey retirement and over the past 15 years the team has not won a playoff game.

Rivera alluded to the team’s recent history on Wednesday. “To me it really is about renaming the team,” he told NBC’s Today show. “But I also think it’s about turning the page to a new chapter. We’ve had a lot of unfortunate things that have happened. But as we go forward what I’m trying to do is, hey, buy into judging us now and where we’re headed as opposed to where we’ve been.”

The team will continue to play in its famous burgundy and gold uniforms.