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Op/ed: New Name Can’t Hide Ugly History of Washington Football

Sports Journalism Professor: New Military-themed Branding Shouldn’t Distract From Franchise’s Racism, Sexism and Incompetence

By Kevin B. Blackistone

Store with Washington Commanders gear

Washington’s NFL team store has new apparel for sale just after announcing its name change to Commanders today. While the new logos are intended to move past the controversial “Redskins,” journalism Professor of the Practice Kevin Blackistone urges fans not to forget the franchise's problematic history.

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After decades of controversy, two seasons with a generic moniker and a few hours of unplanned leaks, Washington, D.C.’s NFL team has a new name.

The former Redskins franchise announced today that it will henceforth be known as the Commanders, unveiling new branding that maintains its well-known burgundy-and-gold color scheme while attempting to move on from Native American imagery long decried as racist.

In a column published today in The Washington Post, Kevin Blackistone, professor of the practice in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, encourages fans to not let new logos cover up the prior institutional failures of the franchise and NFL:

… [I]n the summer of 2020, with the country roiling in protests against white supremacy in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, and the sponsor of the team’s stadium, FedEx, calling on the club to drop the offensive name, (head coach Ron) Rivera expressed enlightenment. Not only was it time to change the name, Rivera said, but a new one paying homage to the military would be most appropriate.

The military? It made perfect sense to me. But not because Rivera was the son of a 32-year Army man and grew up on military bases overseas and in this area before settling in Monterey, Calif. Nor because the home of this football team is the seat of this country’s armed forces, with the Pentagon just across the river in Virginia.

Instead, it was because the military, its patriotic pomp and circumstance, is so unassailable in so many people’s eyes that it could be seen as the ultimate deodorizer for a franchise that has been rolling on one scent after another in recent years to mask its growing stench.

Read the full essay here.

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