NFL Franchise

From Redskins to Commanders: Unraveling the Identity Shift in Washington’s NFL Franchise

The Washington NFL franchise has undergone a dramatic identity shift in recent years. Originally named the Boston Braves in 1932, the team changed its name to the Redskins the following year before relocating to Washington, D.C. in 1937.

The name “Redskins” was a controversial choice from the start, viewed by many as an offensive slur towards Native Americans. However, team owner George Preston Marshall defended the name, claiming it was meant to honor the team’s head coach, William “Lone Star” Dietz, who claimed Sioux heritage. Despite ongoing protests, the franchise maintained the Redskins moniker for over 80 years.

Key Statistics and Facts

  • The Washington Commanders are valued at $6.05 billion as of 2023, making them one of the most valuable NFL teams.
  • In 2021, the team generated $544 million in revenue and had $130 million in operating income.
  • The Commanders have three Super Bowl-winning seasons – in 1982, 1987, and 1991 when they played as the Redskins.
  • Washington Commanders odds of making the 2023 playoffs sit around +320.

Mounting Pressure Forces a Reckoning

In the 2010s, pressure mounted from Native American groups, shareholders, and sponsors to change the name, claiming it was too offensive. Major sponsors like FedEx, Nike, and PepsiCo threatened to end partnerships, while shareholder proposals demanded a rebrand.

After the racial justice protests of 2020, the Washington franchise announced on July 13, 2020, that the Redskins name and logo would be retired. The team temporarily rebranded as the Washington Football Team, using a simple W logo. This placeholder name allowed time to thoughtfully research options for a permanent identity.

The Path to a New Name

Choosing a new name for one of the NFL’s oldest franchises was a massive undertaking. The team considered over 1,500 options, seeking a name that honored tradition while moving towards an inclusive future.

Key factors included fan engagement, trademark viability, and visual design potential. After 18 months of research, Washington announced its new permanent name on February 2, 2022 – the Washington Commanders.

What the New Name Represents

According to team president Jason Wright, the Commanders name nods to the area’s deep military history while setting a leadership tone.

The rebrand also included a new logo and uniforms in the team’s signature burgundy and gold. The circular badge logo depicts a letter C with three stars representing the District of Columbia. This new visual identity aims to propel the franchise into a new era.

Ongoing Controversy and Criticism

Despite efforts to move forward, some controversy persists around the rebranding. Many fans continue to sport Redskins gear, resisting the change. Some accuse the team of bowing to “cancel culture” and erasing tradition.

Additionally, some Native American groups felt excluded from the name change process and wished the team had consulted tribal leaders more thoroughly. A recent petition from Native Americans has garnered over 130,000 signatures to change the name back to the Redskins. Although the new ownership group is unlikely to cave to these petitions, it continues to create tension in Washington over the team’s name.

What the Future Holds

The full impact of the Washington rebrand remains to be seen. But shedding what many call an offensive name opens new possibilities for the team to strengthen its regional ties and expand its fan base. The Commanders identity is a work in progress – an opportunity to build bridges and create a more inclusive culture.

This identity shift mirrors wider reckonings around racism and injustice. While change is difficult, the franchise hopes this new chapter allows it to move forward with purpose. Their future will be defined by how they live up to the name Commanders; winning cures all wounds.


The Washington NFL franchise has come a long way from its early controversial days as the Boston Braves and Redskins. Though the name change process has been complex, the Commanders’ identity represents a chance to start fresh. This storied organization now looks ahead to building its future and connecting with fans in new ways.