Washington selects Commanders as new NFL team name after two-season process

LANDOVER, Md. -- It's the Washington Commanders.

After 87 years with its former name and two years as the Washington Football Team, the franchise announced Wednesday morning that its new name would be the Commanders. The team also unveiled its new logo and uniforms.

Washington's leaders -- team president Jason Wright and coach Ron Rivera -- had stressed during the 20-month process that the franchise would like to incorporate the military because of its connection to the nation's capital. Commander is a term used most often in the military as a naval officer rank, but it also can be used as a generic term.

Wright told the assembled crowd, which included 17 alumni members, that "we landed on this in part because we believed the Washington Commanders can carry the rich legacy of this team, a championship legacy. It's got the weight and heft of something befitting a 90-year franchise. It's something that broadly resonated with our fans in this process and something that embodies the values of service and leadership that characterizes the DMV [D.C., Maryland, Virginia region]."

"What this effort really is at its core is not landing on a name that was going to be unanimously loved by everybody but to start a process by which we can continue to preserve what's best about the burgundy and gold," Wright added. "Those have been colors and a name and a franchise that, when you have trouble talking to each other on other topics, you can come together and hug and high-five and be one while cheering this team on."

Washington owner Dan Snyder spoke for 45 seconds before turning it over to his wife and team co-CEO Tanya Snyder. Dan Snyder, who was adamant for years that he would never change the name, strode to the podium in a burgundy coat with gold sleeves and a burgundy W outlined in gold above the heart.

"Today's a big day for our team, our fans, a day in which we embark on a new chapter," Dan Snyder said. "It's been a long journey to get to this point."

Washington unveiled three uniforms Wednesday: an all-white set with burgundy numbers and sleeves that have a black stripe sandwiched by white and burgundy, an all-burgundy jersey with gold numbers and sleeves that have a thin white stripe in between two gold stripes, and an all-black one that has gold numbers and a patch on the side with two burgundy stripes and three burgundy stars on a gold background. The black jerseys will use a black helmet with gold numbers on the side and a gold W on the front. The other two feature a burgundy helmet with a gold W on the side and a gold stripe down the middle.

"When I first saw [the name], I saw it with the uniforms," said defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, the lone current player at the ceremony. "If you're looking just at the name, well, the name doesn't mean anything to you. There's no history there. You've never seen anyone play for that team, there's no uniforms, so obviously you're not going to like it. But once you come out, you see the atmosphere, you see the new helmets, you see the new uniform, you see the players wearing it, you see the culture we've built around it, it's going to make a lot of people happy."

Among the alumni in attendance, linebacker London Fletcher said the new uniforms "in the words of the youngsters, are fire," while former wide receiver Gary Clark said he liked the new name and that it's "like two companies merging together."

Washington's quest for a new name began in July 2020, following protests across the United States after the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota. Around that time, Snyder started having discussions with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about possibly changing the name that was considered by some to be offensive and racist. The team kept its burgundy and gold colors but is done with Native American imagery.

Crystal Echo Hawk, executive director of the nonprofit organization IllumiNative, had called Wednesday a "momentous moment" and said they can "put a horrible chapter to rest. There's still a lot of healing that needs to happen, so I don't think the team's work in regards to reconciliation and healing is over."

"The NFL is not done," Crystal Echo Hawk added. "The [Kansas City] Chiefs have to step up and follow the lead and be on the right side of history. Washington has shown these rebrandings can be successful. This is a good thing. All eyes turn to the Chiefs."

Ray Halbritter, the nation representative and CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, said the new name is important for all Native Americans, but especially future generations.

"They'll no longer be subjected to such an offensive and harmful slur every Sunday during the football season," Halbritter said. "It's a great moment for Washington fans. They want to support a team, to love a team, and now they won't be put in position having to do that with a dictionary-defined slur as a name."

The franchise said on July 3, 2020, that it would undergo a thorough review of its former name. Ten days later, it announced that it was retiring its previous name and adopting Football Team as a temporary moniker.

Snyder for years had resisted changing the name, telling USA Today in 2013 to "put it in all caps" that he would never make such a move. Some who have worked for Snyder said they believed he would rather sell the team than use a new name.

But that changed during the spring and early summer of 2020. In June of that year, a letter signed by 87 investors and shareholders with a total worth of $620 billion was sent to sponsors FedEx, PepsiCo and Nike, asking them to stop doing business with the team unless its name was changed. When that was reported by Adweek.com, multiple people -- including current and former employees -- echoed the same thought: It's over. Most, if not all, were unaware that a possible change was already in the works.

A small group in the organization, including Snyder and Rivera, discussed a new name at the time, but it was shelved. At the time, there were reports of trademark issues holding up a possible new name.

The quest began more in earnest when the franchise hired Wright a month later. Wright's group met with alumni, fans and some Native Americans during the process, keeping fans apprised with updates on the team's website, whether by video or through his President's Briefs. In July 2021, Wright announced the new name would not contain any Native American reference or imagery.

Last month, Wright said one popular name among fans, RedWolves, was dropped because of trademarks held by others.

Former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann, who first joined the organization in 1974 and was part of its first Super Bowl triumph after the 1982 season, said, "Give it a little time. I say to everybody just give it a chance to seep in a little bit.

"... It's so much more than a name, it's a new beginning as an organization," Theismann added. "Things have changed a lot. People are not opposed to change. They're opposed to being changed. We're not trying to change anybody. All we've done is modified and changed the name."

Wright said throughout the process that he did not want to be viewed as an expansion franchise. During the past two seasons, the team had "1932" (the year the franchise was established) painted on the field and adorned on signs with the name "Football Team."