The Washington Football Team said on Tuesday that it would unveil a new name and “identity” on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, the culmination of an 18-month rebranding prompted by the loss of corporate sponsors that objected to the team’s former name.
In July 2020, the N.F.L. team yielded to pressure from fans, sponsors and Native American groups and dropped the 87-year-old franchise name, which had long been considered a racial slur of Native Americans. The organization adopted the stripped-down identifier as a placeholder during its search for new imagery. Since then, the franchise has teased new names — RedWolves, Admirals, Generals, Armada, Presidents — in social media announcements and statements from Jason Wright, the team’s president.
The public-facing effort is the latest effort to overhaul one of the N.F.L.’s most troubled franchises that has been embroiled with numerous off-field scandals to accompany years of dismal on-field performances.
Tuesday’s announcement came just days after Washington was once again eliminated from postseason contention. The team blew a 16-point lead over the Philadelphia Eagles in its last home game of the season on Sunday, losing 20-16. After the game, numerous Eagles fans, reaching down to greet their team’s quarterback, Jalen Hurts, as he left the field, tumbled almost 10 feet into a tunnel at FedEx Field when a railing gave way. Hurts was uninjured, and at least one fan went to a hospital.
Hurts was alarmed enough that on Tuesday he sent a letter to the Washington Football Team and to the N.F.L. asking “what follow-up action is being considered.” Wright received the letter and offered to speak with Hurts, according to a team spokesman, Sean DeBarbieri.
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In a video released on Tuesday, team executives and Washington Coach Ron Rivera looked at potential helmets and jerseys that include the team’s signature burgundy and gold colors.
Wright, in a statement posted to the team’s website, eliminated from contention both variations of the RedWolves name, favored by fans, because they conflict with trademarks held by other teams that “would limit our ability to make the name our own.”
The introduction of a new name and logo in four weeks will be a welcome distraction for a club dogged by negative news. Through most of 2020 and 2021, the team’s majority owner, Daniel Snyder, was involved in a contentious fight with three longtime limited partners in the franchise. After several rounds of mudslinging and court battles, the league’s owners agreed to let Snyder buy out his former partners for $875 million and fully consolidate his ownership of the team.
At the same time, the league took over an investigation into reports of widespread harassment of women who worked for the team, allegations that dated back nearly two decades. In July, N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell fined the franchise a record $10 million and ordered Snyder to stay away from the team’s facilities for several months. But Goodell created another controversy by refusing to make public the findings of that investigation, despite calls to do so by lawyers for some of the women who brought accusations and by members of Congress.
The Washington Football Team was also criticized by fans after it announced it would retire the uniform number of Sean Taylor, a beloved star defender who at age 27 was murdered in a home invasion in 2007, just days after The New York Times published emails in which Jon Gruden made homophobic and misogynistic remarks in emails he sent to Bruce Allen, the team’s former president.
Taylor’s jersey retirement ceremony took place three days after the announcement, leaving little time for his former teammates to attend; his family posed for photos with the street sign renamed for him where the team had placed a line of portable toilets; and the brother of Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes unknowingly danced on the on-field logo with Taylor’s number.
Afterward, Wright apologized in a statement, saying “we screwed up the execution and, as a result, we realize that we hurt many of our fans deeply. And for that I and we as an organization are sorry.”
There were just 50,137 tickets sold to that game, far short of FedEx Field’s capacity. Washington is last in the 32-team league in attendance, filling just 64 percent of its seats at home games.
At 6-10 with one game remaining in the 2021 season, Washington is assured of its 14th losing campaign this century. It has won just one playoff game — in the 2005 season — during that span.
The videos released on Tuesday expressed the team’s hope that its new name and identity will change its fortunes in the coming year.
“No doubt about it, we’re going forward,” Doug Williams, the team’s Super Bowl-winning former quarterback, said.