Redskins Need to Rebrand

[Update July 13, 2020: The Washington Football Club to announce the retirement of the Redskins name today. A win for the civil rights team in this crazy year. Original photo taken for WUSA-9.]
The Washington Redskins need to rebrand. The mounting pressure makes it clear, from mainstream media to federal lawsuit, people want Dan Snyder to change the name of his team, often viewed as a racial slur against Native Americans.

To me, the issue has come to a fore. I can not buy any gear, purchase any tickets, or support this team so long as it insists on calling itself a racist name. I will not spend one dollar on Danny Snyder’s football club so long as they are called the Redskins.

This is not an issue of liberal protest. I am a Washingtonian of 20+ years, a Nationals partial season ticket holder, and a regular at many local sporting events. Even the Green Bay Packers CEO came out against the name, calling it derogatory.

The last two times I publicly critiqued brands were BP in 2010 during the oil spill, and Komen for the Cure in 2011-12. I don’t criticize brands often because done frequently as a marketing consultant it creates conflict of interest issues, including a better than thou attitude that doesn’t build a strong reputation. I also know what it’s like to be on the receiving of a post like this.

Know that my motive is personal and as a consumer in the Washington marketplace. If the Redskins were to come to me, offer me tickets or a consulting contract, I would tell then “no thank you.” That’s how strongly I feel about the matter.

Dan Snyder also feels strongly, as he told the USA Today, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER – you can use caps.”

And like so many other issues in the past, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell lacks the foresight to see the conflict the name continues to cause.

That’s an unfortunate polarizing attitude. I think Danny Snyder and the NFL will have to change the name whether they like it or not. It will become increasingly apparent that the Redskins name is bad business. More and more customers will walk no matter how good the team is.

ESPN published a great story showing the negative business effects of Native American names, and how ensuing name changes create increased revenues. Done right, a name change could galvanize the franchise.

Let’s hope Dan Snyder is humble enough to change his words. Somehow I doubt it. Until then, don’t expect to see me wearing burgundy and gold.

What do you think?


  • “Humble” isn’t a word I’d use to describe Mr. Snyder. ::ahem::

    The name is such a nasty thing. I’ve grown up in this town, I’ve grown up watching and loving the Redskins. They’re MY TEAM; that’s a kind of love I can’t just undo. That said, the name is just … wretched. I keep thinking back to the rebranding debacle with the Bullets/Wizards; that was the worst name choice ever (they’re 7′ tall basketball players; why they’re not called The Monuments is beyond me ;) )

    But I digress. Rebranding is necessary, but it needs to be carefully thought out. And I’m still gonna watch the game tonight, but this issue does weigh heavily.

    • Nothing could be worse than the Wizards rebrand. Oh yeah, there was the Pelicans. Well, the point is still the same, and with this city in particular, I would think catering to the military would be a smart move given the proximity of the Pentagon, and defense contractor community!

      • Or perhaps you could combine the native american vibe with the Military vibe and call them the “Washington Tomahawks” and have a picture of a missile on the helmet.

        Seriously though, as someone said recently, until the Redskins get to a game that matters, like the Superbowl, this will probably stay a background issue. If the Redskins make the superbowl, you’ll have two weeks for this story to germinate on the national stage.

        • Yeah, you’re right about the Super Bowl/publicity. And with RG III’s knee, that is highly questionable in my mind. Oh to the Tomahawks!

  • Has anyone bothered to seek the view of Native Americans?

  • I was thinking about this on my walk to work today in my Cleveland Indians t-shirt. I sometimes get nasty looks because my shirt says “TRIBE” on the front. I’m used to it and it doesn’t affect me, because I don’t think it’s a racist reference.

    The fact is, Indians/Native Americans play an important role in the identity of many cities. That’s something to celebrate. It’s a heritage thing. Just like the Corn Huskers as a reference to farm culture in Nebraska, or the Fighting Irish as a reference to the Absolution Under Fire story. It’s just a question of how you celebrate it.

    I don’t support FSU changing its name from the Seminoles. I don’t support Cleveland changing its name. But I would support Washington changing its name.

    The difference is that “Redskins,” as you pointed out, is a racist term, not a celebration of heritage.

    I know many folks disagree with me, but that’s how I see it. Go Tribe.

  • I have been discussing about this for a long time. Since I learned about this issue a long time ago, I was back and forth on keeping or changing the name. This year, I discovered a newspaper article and journal article on the origin of the Redskins name by Ives Goddard of the Smithsonian. Apparently from his research, the Redskins name was originally by Native Americans, so Roger Goodell (who I really don’t like), was right on that aspect. The article further discuss how the Redskins name became a “positive” connotation to “negative.”

    What I think the Redskins name is racist and a slur isn’t the name, but the intent behind it. The founder, George Preston Marshall, intentionally created the name to be racist. It was a marketing ploy for southerners (DC at the time in the 30s-50s was the most southern city to have a team) to go to D.C. This lead to Washington being the last team to integrate black players in the 1960s.

    IMO, I would still keep the Redskins name for this fact: In the 80+ years of the team in Washington, there two times they were good: their expansion years with Sammy Baugh in the late 30s-early 40s; and the early 1970s with George Allen. Those times, I would suggest a name change. It was the 1980s and early 90s the Redskins name was redefined by Joe Gibbs when they won 3 Super Bowls. I actually know the term Redskins as a champion and team-oriented. To me, Joe Gibbs screwed up the meaning of the word for everyone.

    Another aspect is that there was a poll back in 2004, that says 94% of Native Americans weren’t offended by the name “Redskins” in a poll in 2011 (forgot exactly what year), the percentage dropped to 79-80%, but still a good majority still have no problem with the name. With all those headlines about changing the name and the polls, something wasn’t aligning, which leads me to three ways to do this:

    1. Change the team name. I suggest don’t have a nickname and call the team “Washington FC” or “Washington FT” like in soccer.

    2. The Tony Kornheiser way where you keep the name, but remove the Indian logo to a potato.

    3. My likely choice of keeping the name, but change the ways. There is a lot of misinformation of the Redskins name and I can’t tell you what’s right or wrong. I believe people are upset of the people behind it from GPM to Dan Snyder, basically unlikeable people. If they had an ounce of soul, then maybe the team name wouldn’t be an issue, but from that faux stunt where the Redskins brought a guy in who call himself “Chief” as his business and disguise him as a Native American. That is the wrong way to do it.

    If they want to keep the name, have a one day activity get together every year (in training camp) in Southern Virginia to an indian tribe and learn what they do. That way, they get to understand.

    • I vote for the Tony Kornheiser method. OK. Maybe 1. I agree with you on the history. It wasn’t time, but now it is. Let’s just hope Snyder figures that out before it goes on much longer!

  • In a culture that condemns and terminates employment over using words like ‘nigger’, ‘gay’, ‘redskins’ I find it ironic that people can take the lords name in vein without anyone batting an eyelash. In a world where an African American can use the term ‘nigger’ in everyday vocabulary, but if a caucasian utilizing the same term he is deemed a racist. Should we get rid of the Patriots on behalf of the boston marathon bombers because they are muslim radicals and find the name offensive? What about the braves? Are little people offended by the Giants? Any animal mascot clearly offends PETA!

    Peter King can drop the use of the ‘redskins’ as easily as I can delete his blog from my RSS and cancel my SI subscription. Lets change all mascots to mystical creatures and simply name teams team. For example, Team Iris!

    Lets not forget that the redskin name was also changed from the braves to honor its Sioux Heritage coach William Henry (Lone Star) Dietz. Let’s also ignore that some native americans (Stephen Dodson, a chief in the Aleutian tribe – its on youtube) called ‘Redskin’ was used by his people as a term of endearment. If we change the name, the entire tribe will be offended and lack the publicity they so right deserve since evil america took their land.

  • I don’t get why they don’t just un-brand: Simply reduce the name to “Washington,” and retain the current colors and fonts. Nothing changes, and yet everything changes. It’s easy.

  • OK.., something to think about for sure. I’m not an American, let alone a native one. I do get the idea that Redskins might not be of this age. But.., is there a context in which this name is not a problem?

    I’m just asking here, ’cause I’m curious.

    OK, I was going for an argument on history and time, but Wikipedia explained only The Redskins actually use the word, everywhere else it is avoided as being “usually offensive”.

    Then again, can this not be turned around? After all, it is just a word (I know, there are many “just words”), but isn’t it possible that with consensus ‘we’ could accept that word and use it as a way to honor native Americans?

    Wikipedia also states that some think it was not with negative intent, originally. It was used because of the red paint worn during war.

    See, it’s easy to change a name, but it is part of your heritage, good or bad. My point is, I think, many “white men” have used Native American names, tribe names and the like, solely for marketing purposes. I’d say that is as offensive, if not more so, then a football team uses a term associated with going to war (which is what they do when starting a game, they even a fight song).

    It’s also the second most valuable franchise in the NFL, right after the Dallas Cowboys. And that’s a name I can surely associate with a period in history which is also not very nice.

    Redskins vs. Cowboys.., well.., I’d say both need to change their name.

  • Wow, as a sports fan, I find myself struggling with the name change. It’s always been the Redskins…you folks have that Hail to the Redskins and #HTTR Twitter tag…all those years of tradition.

    Then I realize – wait a minute – slavery was a tradition, too – and that was ABSOLUTELY wrong. And although I agree with one of your commenters that it is frustrating how an ethnic group can cry “foul” if someone uses a slur they are more than willing to use upon themselves, it should NEVER be permissible for us to use a racial slur. Just too much hate in this world.

    Change the name, Snyder. C’mon, man…you love being a meddlesome owner – why not be a proactive, thoughtful, forward-thinking owner.

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  • Great post, Geoff. The team names in the D.C. area have always concerned me. Bullets sounded violent, but Wizards reminds me of the KKK (although I am originally from the West Coast, so East Coast natives may see it different). Red Skins is an obvious slur. My rule of thumb is if you could not walk up to somebody and say “hey, red skin,” you cannot use the term in polite conversation, let alone for your brand… I am not sure what I am missing in this debate. It should be obvious.

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