Who are the commanders football team ? After 18 months of speculation (and internet sleuthing), the Washington Football Team officially revealed its new name on Wednesday — the Commanders.
“It’s a name that has the weight and meaning befitting a 90-year-old franchise,” team president Jason Wright said as he announced the new name on the Today show Wednesday morning.
“It’s something that broadly resonated with our fans,” he added, “and it’s something that we believe embodies the values of service and leadership that really define the DMV [the District, Maryland and Virginia] in this community.”
The team’s colors will remain burgundy and gold. Its logo centers on a capital “W,” and the new uniforms also incorporate elements of the D.C. flag, with three stars and two bars. As for a new mascot and fight song, Wright said the team wants its fans to help work on those ideas.
Wright announced the name at FedEx Field alongside former Washington quarterback Doug Williams. Asked about his initial reaction upon hearing the new name, Williams said, “I’m going to hug Commanders, because that’s what we are, and we’ve got to go forward with it.”
“I do like the name,” he added. “It’s got a good sound to it.”
Wednesday’s big announcement ends months of research, focus groups and fan submissions for new names. On Twitter, reactions were decidedly mixed, with some fans complaining that the name wasn’t as exciting as the “Red Wolves” — an idea that the team has previously dismissed.
Other comments noted that this is the second Commanders pro football team, after the San Antonio franchise of the short-lived Alliance of American Football league.
“Two years of ‘working the brand’ to even copy the hashtag from a 2019 team,” one user wrote, calling out the #takecommand hashtag.
The team scrapped its previous name — the Washington Redskins — in July 2020 after years of pressure to do away with it because of its racist connotations against Native Americans, a name it had for 87 years.
Last August, the team banned fans from wearing “Native American-inspired” dresses inside its home stadium, such as headdresses and face paint. The new guideline was announced in a stadium policy and protocol update ahead of the 2021 NFL season.
Sleuths speculated the new name for weeks
Before the Washington Commanders made their official announcement on its new team name, some internet sleuths discovered it a bit earlier than planned.
Just last week, a Twitter user by the name of LarryLegendBTW noticed that the Commanders.com domain had been transferred to California-based MarkMonitor —the company the NFL uses to control most of the domain names for its teams and brands, according to Sporting News.
Sporting News reported that all but six NFL teams have their team websites on MarkMonitor — the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders and Houston Texans all use Network Solutions, while the Washington Football Team (now Commanders) uses GoDaddy.
“There’s two reasons you acquire a name. One is you acquire it for pure speculation, and you hold onto it. And two is you acquire it because you want to use it,” technology expert Shawn DuBravac told TV station Fox 5 DC. “And typically when you acquire it and you want to use it, you’re going to move it to where you’re going to deploy it.”
A few names were off the table from the beginning
Wright said in a statement last month that one option was off the table when it came to the team’s new name: anything to do with “Wolves” or “Red Wolves.”
While the “Red Wolves” was a fan favorite, Wright said “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.”
In July 2021, Wright canceled out another possible choice of the team’s name — the Warriors — “with the clear acknowledgment that it too closely aligns with Native American themes.”
For the longest time, the team’s owner — Dan Snyder — had brushed off lobbying efforts by activists and Native American groups to change the franchise’s name.
“We’ll never change the name,” he told USA Today in 2013. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
But seven years later, the push for the team’s name change resurfaced after the murder of George Floyd and the nationwide outcry regarding racial and social injustices of people of color.
The organization has its fair share of issues
News of the team’s new name and branding comes following an investigation into workplace misconduct within the organization.
The investigation, prompted by a series of reports from The Washington Post in 2020, looked into the alleged sexual harassment experienced by female team employees and the mistreatment of the team’s cheerleaders.
Following the team’s investigation, the NFL fined the Football Team $10 million.
The House Oversight Committee will hold a roundtable on Thursday with several former team employees to discuss “issues of workplace misconduct and the National Football League’s (NFL) failure to take steps to prevent sexual harassment and verbal abuse within the WFT under the leadership of owner Dan Snyder.”
According to the committee, the roundtable is intended to inform “potential legislative solutions” to protect workers from harassment and discrimination.
Burgundy and sold: Commanders officially say goodbye to Dan Snyder, welcome new ownership group
In a unanimous vote, the NFL approved the sale of the Commanders on Thursday from Dan Snyder to a new ownership group led by Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Josh Harris.
While the sale process, first reported by News4 in April, took less than a year, it felt like an eternity for many Commanders fans. The official sale follows months of speculation that Snyder could try to sabotage the agreement before the final moments. But it now appears the long nightmare is over for Burgundy and Gold fans.
In remarks just after the sale was approved, Harris talked about his lifelong love of Washington football and promised a new day.
“To our team and the incredible fan base in Washington: A new era of Washington football is here. It’s time to get to work,” he said.
Many fans greeted the news with joy. Cheering Commanders fans wore “Bye, Dan” T-shirts and cheered at a “Burgundy and Sold” party at The Bullpen in D.C.’s Navy Yard neighborhood.
“The last game I went to, I thought I was at an away game instead of a home game,” a diehard fan from Maryland said, describing all the Green Bay Packers cheese heads he saw. “We’ve got to turn this thing around. Let’s go, Commanders!” he shouted.
At Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, Virginia, fans decked out in burgundy and gold celebrated as news of the sale finally arrived. They sipped “Bye Dan” IPA.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell congratulated the new ownership group in a statement released moments after the vote took place in Minneapolis.
“Congratulations to Josh Harris and his impressive group of partners,” the statement reads. “Josh will be a great addition to the NFL. He has a remarkable record in business, sports, and in his communities. The diverse group that Josh has put together is outstanding for its business acumen and strong Washington ties and we welcome them to the NFL as well.”
“I met Josh several years ago, prior to his acquisition of an interest in the Steelers and have been fortunate to get to know him better over the past few months,” the statement continued. “I know he has a commitment to winning on the field, but also to running an organization that everyone will be proud of — and to making positive contributions in the community.”
Harris comes in with real bonafides, as the principal owner of the 76ers in the NBA, the New Jersey Devils of the NHL and the London-based soccer club Crystal Palace of the English Premier League.
He also has ties to the D.C. area. Harris grew up in Chevy Chase and attended The Field School in the District.
The private equity billionaire also comes with a number of impressive partners: Mitchell Rales and Magic Johnson among the headliners, along with long-time Harris partner David Blitzer.
As impressive as Harris’ resume coming in boasts to be, Snyder’s is almost equally embarrassing.
Under his stewardship, the football team’s performance on the field tanked.
Snyder bought the team in 1999 and took full control before the 2000 season. Since 2000, Snyder’s Washington teams registered a terrible 154-214-2 record, losing 60 games more than they’ve won. They’ve also earned just one playoff victory in 23 seasons.
That’s in contrast to the 20 years prior to Snyder’s ownership, when Washington was one of the best teams in the NFL, with three Super Bowl wins and four appearances.
That’s to say nothing of the numerous lawsuits, investigations and allegations during Snyder’s tenure, which ranged from sexual harassment to financial fraud.
Momentous change for the Washington team came about after a series of investigative articles from the Washington Post in summer 2020. After that, the team finally dropped its previous name, and installed Tanya Snyder, breast cancer awareness advocate and Dan’s wife, as CEO.
The NFL also fined the organization $10 million.
Harris, Rales and Johnson have all indicated that they’re excited to take next steps with the team.
Speaking on behalf of his ownership group back in May, Harris said: “… I want to express how excited we are to be considered by the NFL to be the next owners of the Washington Commanders and how committed we are to delivering a championship-caliber franchise for this city and its fanbase.”
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