A Good Name for a Washington Football Team Once Known as the Redskins?

From a Washington Post story by Robert McCartney headlined “One name stands out as the new moniker for the Washington Football Team”:

More than 40,000 fans of the Washington Football Team have suggested new names to replace the old one that shall go unmentioned. This writer, a longtime season ticket holder, has a preference. It would link the team’s future with its once-glorious past without offending Native Americans or anyone else.

The Washington Red Wolves.

The choice offers multiple advantages. Wolves are quick and aggressive, just as we want our players to be. The red wolf, now a critically endangered species, is the only large canid, or member of the dog family, that was native to our region. It would be easy to rewrite the fight song as “Hail to the Red Wolves!”

Red Wolves — or Redwolves, one word — is among the most frequently suggested options in the debate preoccupying fans….

Any new name won’t be in place until the 2022 season. The team announced the collection of 39,783 fan submissions 10 days ago, and the number has risen since then.

Now it will narrow the options to a shortlist of finalists. After that, WFT President Jason Wright said “we will still need to go through the months-long work of legal wrangling, trademarking, merchandising feasibility and dozens of other uninteresting but really important steps that go into the launch of a new name.”…

On the bright side, the team confirms that burgundy and gold will remain the team’s noble colors….

As for other possibilities: Washington Warriors has the advantage of alliteration, but it could draw criticism for being militaristic. Also, the National Basketball Association’s Golden State Warriors have heard calls to change their name on the grounds that it originally referred to Native American fighters.

Red Tails would justly honor African American airmen who served in segregated units in World War II. But it also would be a constant reminder of past racial discrimination, and some former pilots have been skeptical.

A team website lists a handful of “featured fan submissions,” complete with uniform designs. They include Revolution, Memorials, Owls and Rhinos, along with Redwolves, Warriors and Redtails.

I conducted an informal, entirely unscientific survey of more than a dozen friends and other fellow fans and got the following responses: four votes for Red Wolves, two each for Warriors and Washington Football Team, and one apiece for Red Tails, Wolves, Timber Wolves, Senators, Defenders, Rough Riders and Dukes (honoring D.C. native Duke Ellington)….

Lacking such drawbacks is Red Wolves. Although the species is not around here today, its original habitat extended from New Jersey south along the Atlantic seaboard and as far west as Texas….

“As a marketing professional, my experience has been that people want new things that remind them of familiar things,” said Cary Hatch, chief executive of MDB Communications, a D.C. advertising and marketing communication firm.

The other risk is a potential trademark challenge. It so happens that Arkansas State University chose the name “Red Wolves” for its teams when it gave up “Indians” for familiar reasons in 2008.

The school holds a federal trademark for “Red Wolves,” and has gone to court seeking to force the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Red Wolves, a professional soccer team, to drop the name.

It’s a headache, but one that quiet bargaining backed by deep pockets can relieve….

Whatever is picked, dissent is ensured. Wright, the team president, said, “There is no way to land a new brand without some dissatisfaction.”

But this fan is convinced Red Wolves would fare far better than most.

Robert McCartney is The Washington Post’s senior regional correspondent, covering government and politics in the greater Washington area.

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