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NFL

Why did the Washington Football Team change its name to the Washington Commanders?

The Washington Commanders have had this name officially since February of this year. Before that they were known simply as the Washington Football Team.

Update:
The Washington Commanders have had this name officially since February of this year. Before that they were known simply as the Washington Football Team.
Patrick SmithGetty

The Washington Commanders unveiled this new name on February 2, 2022, after being known simply as the Washington Football Team since July of 2020.

But before that, they were (in)famously known as the Washington Redskins, a name they’d had since the 1930s. Both the team’s name and their logo (a native American wearing a headdress) started to receive criticism from some Native Americans in the 1960s.

What does “redskin” mean?

The term “redskin” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as an offensive word “used as an insulting and contemptuous term for an American Indian”. Native American groups and individuals had pushed for the team to change their name for decades, but the franchise’s owners did not give in.

Dan Snyder, who has owned the team since 1999, also refused to change the name despite lawsuits filed against the franchise pointing out that it promoted systemic racism.

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George Floyd’s murder sparks change

However, in July 2020, police murdered George Floyd, sparking national outrage over how people who were not white were being treated. Washington’s team name thus became a focus of attention once again, with corporate sponsors like Nike and Pepsi threatening to withdraw financial support if the organization failed to act on the matter. FedEx, after which the franchise’s arena is named, called for a name change as well.

In the face of economic pressure, Snyder finally gave in and the organization launched a search for a new name. While they looked for a replacement for the one which they’d borne for 87 years, they used “Washington Football Team (WFT)” as a place holder.

After sifting through more than 40,000 choices suggested by fans, the franchise finally decided on “Washington Commanders”, in homage to the US capital’s connection to the military.

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