- The Washington Football Team will announce their new team name on February 2, 2022.
- Two names–Wolves and RedWolves–are out of the running, primarily for trademark reasons.
- It’s also doubtful that the team would schedule an ‘announcement date’ just to say they’re keeping the WFT moniker.
The Washington Football Team will likely be ‘nameless no more’ after February 2. That’s when team president Jason Wright indicated that a new name will be unveiled for the franchise. After years of pressure, the team finally capitulated in 2020 and dropped the ‘Redskins’ nickname but didn’t have anything to replace it with. A NFL team name is not a decision to be taken lightly given the myriad branding and merchandising implications that come with it. For that reason, they went with an awkward ‘placeholder’ name–or ‘non name’: Washington Football Team. Thankfully, it abbreviated well to ‘WFT’.
The WFT has since been working on a permanent nickname though they *have* teased the option of keeping their current branding. That now looks extremely unlikely–how silly would it be to make a big deal about the February 2 announcement date only to say they’re still going to be called the Washington Football Team? Washington CEO Tanya Snyder was on Adam Schefter’s podcast in September and gave these eight names as being ‘under consideration’: Armada, Presidents, Brigade, Defenders, Redhawks, Commanders, RedWolves, and Washington Football Team. A team spokesman later clarified that the list was a ‘selection of names under consideration’ not the final list of brand candidates. To make the situation all the more confusing, the team has reportedly been down to three finalists for several months now–though the three finalists may or may not be among the eight names previously listed.
Earlier today, team president Wright also announced that two names were no longer under consideration: Wolves and RedWolves. Despite these names being among fans’ favorites they’re problematic for other reasons:
“Early on we understood Wolves — or some variation of it — was one of our fan favorites. As I’ve said all along, we take feedback from our fans seriously, and because of your interest in this name, we put Wolves on a list of options to explore fully. Once we began looking into Wolves, however, we became aware of a notable challenge: trademarks held by other teams would limit our ability to make the name our own. And without Wolves, variations like RedWolves wouldn’t have been viable either for these and other reasons.”
“Understanding the weight and importance of our team name, and excitement around other name options — both internally and within our fan base — we didn’t want to risk going down a route that could be dotted with legal hurdles. The prospect of years of litigation wasn’t something that we wanted you, our fans, to have to bear as you begin to embrace a new brand.”
Using that same logic, is ‘Redhawks’ a problem? It would sure seem like it. ‘Redhawks’ also has at least some tangential connotations with Native American culture. There’s a California tribe called the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians who own the Red Hawk Casino. There was also a Sioux chief named Red Hawk. You have to think that, if nothing else, the WFT wants to avoid anything remotely associated with Native American tribes.
So assuming that the new name is from one of the previously listed candidates that leaves: Armada, Presidents, Brigade, Defenders, Redhawks, and Commanders. ‘Redhawks’ would be a good choice but you know how the National Football League loves to glorify war and the military. Just a hunch, but I don’t see ‘Presidents’ working because it simply isn’t strong enough. Assuming they want to go the ‘glorification of war’ route I’m thinking ‘Armada’ or ‘Brigade’ would be the most ‘brandable’ nicknames. Maybe I’m going overboard on semantics but I don’t think ‘Commanders’ or ‘Defenders’ would work. You can’t have a team full of ‘Commanders’ or you have leadership and chain of command issues. Calling the team ‘Defenders’ also implies an inability to generate offense and that’s a non-starter if I’m in charge of the rebrand.
Here’s some historical context about ‘Armada’ from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website:
A Spanish word that originally meant simply “armed”, armada is now used in Spanish-speaking nations as the name of their national navies. In English, the word usually has historical overtones. The Great Armada of 1588 was a 120-ship fleet sent by Philip II of Spain in an attempt to invade Elizabethan England; it was defeated when British forces lit eight ships afire and sent them sailing into the Armada’s midst, then blocked the passage to the south so that the remaining ships were forced to sail northward around Britain in order to return home, causing dozens more ships to be wrecked in the stormy northern seas. Today we sometimes use the word humorously for fleets of fishing boats, rowboats, or canoes.
The website also indicates that in addition to the traditional definition of ‘armada’ as ‘a fleet of warships’ it can also be ‘a large force or group usually of moving things.’ In a military-crazed region would the perceived preference toward naval warfare been seen as a slight by the other branches of the armed forces?
As for ‘brigade’ here’s the dictionary definition:
1a : a large body of troops
b : a tactical and administrative unit composed of a headquarters, one or more units of infantry or armor, and supporting units
2 : a group of people organized for special activity
If semantical propriety is a consideration, tough to do better than ‘brigade’ for describing a football team. The etymology of the word: French, from Italian brigata, from brigare to fight. The same etymological roots created the word ‘brigand’ which is essentially a synonym for ‘pirate’:
“one who lives by plunder usually as a member of a band”
Without knowing the thought processes involved, it’s difficult to determine if the ‘pirate’ iconography is a ‘feature or a bug’. Since the team is moving on from a name that offended just about everyone they may be trying to come up with a name that will offend absolutely no one. There’s also at least two other pirate themed teams in the NFL already (Bucs, Raiders) plus you can make a case that the ‘Vikings’ are working a similar angle.
In his post announcing that the names ‘Wolves’ and ‘RedWolves’ were being ‘deep sixed’, Wright made clear that the team colors wouldn’t be changing:
“We are confident that this identity is one that our team and our fans across D.C., Maryland, Virginia and beyond can rally behind for another 90 years and more. As we continue to cheer on the Burgundy & Gold in this next chapter.”
Wright is..uh…’right’ about the potential for legal exposure. You could be sure that anyone holding even a dubious claim against the nickname of a NFL franchise would be ready to ‘lawyer up’ hoping to extract some cash out of the team. At least with the names listed, it also appears that if you dig deep enough or think abstractly enough you can come up with a reason why they wouldn’t work.