Washington Warriors.Has a nice ring, don’t it? This isn’t a new baseball or hockey team. I’m talking about football.I’m talking about what we used to call the Washington Redskins. It’s the fourth quarter, and the time has come to punt the old name away. Just to clarify, before I’m charged with treason: I am a fan of the Washington Redskins football organization. I was draped in Redskins regalia before I was a year old.I was young enough to care about winning and losing in those monumental seasons of the late eighties and early nineties. I think the name is offensive, but that’s not really why I want it gone. I just want Dan Snyder to make more money.
Various ethical organizations around the country, including those of Native Americans, have called for the renaming of the team before without any success. I think they are taking the wrong approach, although it may be the most logical. Of course it is an issue of acceptance and diversity, but that’s not all, and that’s not how anyone is going to convince Dan Snyder. Why not call them the Warriors? Snyder filed for trademark protection for the name “Warriors” in 2000, and sat on it for so long that he lost it in 2006, according to a recent report in the Washington City Paper. Whether his intention was to start an arena-league team, or forever change the Redskins brand, we may never know.
I’m not scared by the financial risks in changing the name. Dan has plenty of money.And rebranding isn’t such an uncommon phenomenon. If Martha Stewart can keep her operation running from prison, the Redskins can handle a name change. If oil companies can convince the world they are “going green,” the Warriors can convince the NFL they are going to win. Why hasn’t it occurred to Snyder that the name of the Redskins is undercutting his potential market? Or has the thought appeared and been rapidly dismissed, strangled under the pressure of franchise tradition?
The new millennium is all about globalization. The world is flat again, and where you are doesn’t have anything to do with what you buy. We’re all connected by the internet, cell phones, and news networks; the distance between people within the global community gets smaller by the hour. The NBA knows this, and is making basketball a worldwide phenomenon rivaled only by soccer. Russians are selling Michael Jordan dolls outside the Kremlin.And surprise – there are no NBA teams called the “Rednecks,” “Spics,” or “Crackers.” Surely the minds of the NFL can surmise that giving teams energetic names without any derogatory ethnic connotation opens up the floodgates for international merchandise sales.
Dan Snyder knows that not everyone has red skin. He also knows that his goal is to make everyone buy his product. Make it more accessible. Make it appealing to every skin tone, race, gender, ethnicity, and cultural background. The percentage of Native American fans of the Redskins can only be marginal, if a sample is taken from the general population. Keep the logo. Keep the colors. Keep the song. Keep the corporate name of the stadium, if necessary. Just change the name to the Warriors and get those T-Shirts flying off the shelves again, which I can’t imagine they are after so many dismal seasons.
I don’t know why Snyder picked the name Warriors, but I know why I like it – nostalgia. My high school’s basketball team was the Warriors. Their colors were burgundy and gold, and their logo was an Indian. Sound familiar? But unlike the Redskins, my high school basketball team is indisputably the most successful team in their sport. The Oak Hill Academy Warriors have been USA Today’s top-ranked high school basketball program more times than they can write on the gym wall. The alumni roster reads like an NBA hall-of-fame ballot – Jerry Stackhouse, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant. If “Warriors” was good enough for them, surely whatever Heath Shuler wannabes that will pass through Washington in the coming years can put up with it.
I don’t think that a rename would upend the legacy of Redskin past. Changing the name might turn out to be a catalyst; bringing old players out into the spotlight once more to celebrate the newest evolution of the team they once played for. Fans young and old will surely tune in to watch the first Warriors game – to see how it plays out. “Warriors” even has the same number of letters as Redskins. If things keep going as they have been, the Redskins won’t be drawing nearly as much curiosity.
Go ahead, Dan Snyder, take the risk. Make the money. Get people to care about this organization again, after the mistakes of your tenure to this point. You’re going to need at least one big win on your resume before you leave this town – this could be it.