Josh Silver, who founded Rebrand Washington Football in 2015, with two other longtime fans to “undo the damage” of the team’s name, said the group collected 11,000 petition signatures calling on the team to change its “very demeaning” name. “This was the name of a team in the nation’s capital, symbolic of our racist past,” in a country that still struggles against racism today, Silver said. But the only mention of the past by team officials Wednesday was to talk about the team’s legacy – not its former name. Snyder made no mention of the name’s history, focusing instead on the team’s next chapter. “As an organization, we are excited to rally and rise together as one under our new identity while paying homage to our local roots and what it means to represent the nation’s capital,” he said.
What's missing from the @Commanders announcement is a commitment to reconcile w/ the Native community. This is clear in the team’s first promo–which predominantly features the former team name & racial slur. https://t.co/lqyCmmoCzu— IllumiNative (@_IllumiNatives) February 3, 2022
Snyder and the team fought back against those efforts. But the death of George Floyd triggered protests across the country and highlighted the ongoing frustrations by Native Americans. The change also came after sponsors like Nike and FedEx threatened to sever relationships with the team over the name. “The tragic murder of George Floyd created a national moment for change,” Silver said. “But it was clear that if advocates did not put the issue on the table, then the corporate sponsors would not have known that this was a serious issue.” Snyder retired the old name and logo July 13, 2020, starting an 18-month rebranding process during which the team changed its name to the Washington Football Team. That name was dropped Wednesday in favor of Commanders. Echo Hawk said advocates were not deterred by the yearslong fight over the team name, and she does not think the fight will stop with Wednesday’s announcement, pointing to other Native American team mascots, from the high school level to the pros. She called the Commanders’ announcement “a first step.” “We will not rest until the NFL, MLB and NHL, collegiate and K-12 sports end all use of Native sports mascots, names, and imagery and ban racist fan behaviors that perpetuate harm to Native peoples,” her statement said.
Now the @CommandersFB must commit to doing the work necessary to repair & build trust w/Native peoples & educate fans about why the name & mascot was so harmful. They have a leadership opportunity to both repair the harm they’ve done & be a leader across all pro sports. pic.twitter.com/cSSihbxgDN— IllumiNative (@_IllumiNatives) February 3, 2022
Leaders of a U.S. Congressional committee will host a roundtable to examine what they are calling the “toxic workplace culture” within the Washington professional football team.
Note: This story originally appeared on Cronkite News. It is published via a Creative Commons license. Cronkite News is produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
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