Washington’s NFL team is facing more pressure than ever to change the name, and there’s a sense that change could be coming.
Washington issued a statement Friday morning that said the team is conducting a thorough review of its team name and included a quote from owner Dan Snyder.
“This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” Snyder said in the statement.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he has been speaking with Snyder and Washington for weeks on the topic. It’s a subject that will continue to get attention until the problem is addressed.
Some media members and fans have long asked for a name change, but now money has entered the conversation. Nike removed all Washington football gear that contained the racial slur associated with its mascot on Thursday.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. FedEx is also asking Washington to change the controversial name.
FedEx has naming rights to the stadium, and its CEO — Fred Smith — is a minority owner for Washington. Simply put, if FedEx and Nike drop their association with Washington, the team will endure a big financial loss and may have trouble finding other partners until changes are made.
Changing names isn’t a commonality, but it has happened enough to understand there is minimal impact involved. Tennessee went from the Oilers to the Titans after keeping the name for a year after moving from Houston.
Washington mayor Muriel Bowser said the change is long overdue. Bowser wants the team to move back to D.C. when its current deal at FedEx Field expires in 2027 but can’t see that happening without a name change. The team currently plays in Landover, M.D., which is where it has played since 1997.
“I think it’s past time for the team to deal with what offends so many people,” Bowser said last month to the Washington Post. “And this is a great franchise with a great history that’s beloved in Washington. And it deserves a name that reflects the affection that we’ve built for the team.”
Synder has always been unmoved by the pressure to change the name. He believes the name is more about honor and respect of Native Americans.
“It’s just historical truths, and I’d like them to understand, as I think most do, that the name really means honor, respect,” Snyder told ESPN in 2014. “We sing ‘Hail to [Washington].’ We don’t say hurt anybody. We say ‘Hail to [Washington]. Braves on the warpath. Fight for old D.C.’ We only sing it when we score touchdowns.
Neshaminy High School, about 23 miles north of Philadelphia in Bucks County, recently faced a similar issue. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission voted that the Neshaminy School District could continue to use the name for its athletic teams but must educate students about Native American history to prevent stereotypes in November 2019.
The subject is the topic of ongoing litigation. The Neshaminy School District declined to issue a comment at this time.
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Makur Maker may have just changed the landscape of college basketball recruiting for years to come.
And that’s no hyperbole, because Maker made history when he committed to Howard University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) early Friday morning. He is the No. 17 overall recruit and fourth-ranked center in 247Sports’ Composite rankings. He chose Howard over offers from Memphis, UCLA and Kentucky.
More high school recruits have become open to the HBCU route lately, but it’s one thing to add a school to a list, and it’s another to actually commit. Nate Tabor (Norfolk State) and Naseem Khaalid (Morgan State) were the only two top 300 prospects in the 2020 class headed to HBCUs, and they’re ranked 297 and 248, respectively.
Black players committing to HBCUs is important because the schools can offer a more comfortable and inclusive college experience for many players. As basketball recruit Brandon Huntley-Hatfield said in a story with ESPN, it’s more about legacy.
Most of the NFL’s talented Black players in the 1960s, and some of the NBA’s best players in history came from HBCUs. Sam Jones, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Willis Reed, and the NBA’s first-ever African American to sign a contract, Earl Lloyd, all attended HBCUs. NFL Hall of Famers Walter Payton, Deacon Jones, and Jerry Rice are some of the names from football.
Predominantly white institutions (PWI) eventually priced out the smaller schools with their ability to offer full scholarships, and now it’s the appeal of working out in NBA-like facilities and playing the best competition in the country. These are all things that could be changed over time if this trend becomes the new reality.
So what’s next? Well, there are two things to keep an eye on.
The first is how Maker plays at Howard. Whether he likes it or not, he just became the poster child. Every high school recruit with a glimmer of interest in an HBCU will keep an eye on him. If he succeeds, players gain more confidence in this route. If not, the trend will likely die quickly.
The second is the top guard in the 2023 class Mikey Williams. He has created the most buzz about going to an HBCU, and he’ll be one of the best players in his class.
The NFL is expected to perform “Lift Every Voice And Sing” during Week 1 games this season. The song is known as the Black national anthem and has a history that dates back to about 1899.
It is expected to be performed live before the national anthem. According to ESPN, the NFL is also trying to find other ways to recognize police brutality victims.
While some people may argue that this leads to a more segregated culture at games, it’s the exact opposite. Playing this song will create a more inclusive culture for the Black players who believe the Star-Spangled Banner doesn’t fully include them when it says “the land of the free.”