The Navy and the New Name of the Washington Redskins: The Admirals? The Commanders? The Defenders?

From a story on by Bryan Bender headlined “Can the Washington Football Team toss the Navy a lifeline”:

The Navy’s public image has been taking on water. And some of its most notable advocates have thrown a Hail Mary in the hope of bailing it out.

The recent rumor that the Washington Football team might be called “The Admirals” came as a pleasant surprise to the small flotilla of retired officers who have not so quietly been pushing the rebranding.

“The Navy hasn’t had the best couple of years in terms of some of the publicity,” said retired Adm. James Stavridis, who has steered an online campaign since July 2020 to rename the franchise the “Fighting Admirals.”

“It needs a little punch,” the former NATO commander, commentator and naval historian added. “This could be a turning point for the Navy.”

The team is expected to make a public announcement on Feb. 2.

But does the Navy really want to moor itself to an NFL franchise that has been struggling on the field and that is constantly under fire? After all, The Admirals can’t pull rank on team owner Dan Snyder, who isn’t exactly getting salutes these days.

And not every sailor is so enthusiastic about The Admirals idea. Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chief of naval operations and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was blunt: “Not enthusiastic, especially with this owner, who I have no use for on any front,” he said.

“I cringe at the headlines,” said retired Rear Adm. Kendell Pease, who has a unique perspective as the Navy’s former top spokesperson who also played for the Naval Academy football team.

The ESPN headline he fears most? “The Admirals are on a losing streak.”

“I don’t want to hear that,” Pease said. “I was turned off by the idea when I heard it.”

It’s apparently not a fan favorite, either.

However, the Navy has a long history of embracing professional sports to help burnish its brand and grease recruiting efforts.

That’s especially so with its own athletic standouts, such as Roger Staubach, who won the Heisman Trophy as the Navy’s quarterback and went on to a Hall of Fame career for the Dallas Cowboys; or David Robinson, another academy midshipman and star center for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, who was affectionately nicknamed “The Admiral.”

The service went all out with Navy football star Napoleon McCallum, depicting him dressed as Revolutionary War hero Captain John Paul Jones with the caption, “I have not yet begun to run.”

The self-promotion goes for the Navy’s star turns in popular culture. The blockbuster action film Top Gun in 1986 was a boon for recruiting (and the film’s aerial coordinator even went on to be a four-star admiral).

These days, the Navy’s image looks a bit more like “McHale’s Navy,” the 1960’s sitcom about a bumbling crew during World War II that was ceaselessly plotting hair-brained money-making schemes and getting into trouble ashore….

To some of the Navy’s most polished champions, The Admirals could be a real winner….

Stavridis says he’s been a fan of the home team since he attended high school in Quantico. The “Fighting Admirals,” of course, is a nod to the “great World War II admirals — Nimitz, Halsey, Spruance, King, Leahy,” he explained.

“In many ways, they won World War II in the Pacific, with all due respect to the other services,” Stavridis said.

But could the spirits of the Fighting Admirals rub off on the Washington Football Team? Fellow supporters have their talking points prepared. One of them: The U.S. Navy (not its football team) has a good record on the road.

“The nation expects them to go away, win the game and come back,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, another former chief of information who now runs the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, which is dedicated to honoring the men and women of the sea services.

He thinks naming the team The Admirals would be a PR victory and is eager to help the franchise if it settles on “tying the naval connection to our nation’s capital.”

Thorp points out that Snyder has been eyeing building a new stadium in Southeast Washington, possibly on the site of the team’s old stomping grounds at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. It’s only a few blocks from the Washington Navy Yard, the service’s oldest shore facility where many battleships were once built (and current top admirals still live).

“You can obviously get underway from Washington Harbor and get out to the great Atlantic,” noted Stavridis, who also wrote a book about the history of sea power.

He’s got the perfect name for the new stadium: “The Battleship.”

The football team does appear to be thinking in naval terms. Other new names reportedly in the mix include The Armada and The Commanders. It’s also reportedly considering The Brigade and The Defenders.

“They could certainly come up with a worse name and they probably will,” said Bill Harlow, another former Navy flak (and CIA spin master) who helped Stavridis set up the “Fighting Admirals” website….

What the real admirals all agree on, though, is that any “salty” name would be better than “The Generals.”

“The losingest team in the history of sports are The Generals,” Stavridis said of the Washington exhibition basketball team, “that sad sack club that has to play the Harlem Globetrotters every night.”

The Navy has at least one big NFL booster in the coach with the most Super Bowl wins, the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick. He, too, is a self-described “Navy guy” and would rather be an admiral than a general.

And it’s worth remembering that McHale’s Navy, that fictional crew that was always in hot water, also never lost a battle.

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