One of my best friends in this life and the next is esteemed college professor, cultural critic and fellow writer Shanita Hubbard. And while I love her dearly, one of our ongoing jokes for years has been how terrible she is at coming up with names for our projects. If it were up to her, the NBA would specialize in “bouncy ball” and Black Lives Matter would likely be known as “Would Y’all White Folks Just Leave Us the Fuck Alone Already?”
So as the Washington Football Team has struggled to come up with a permanent replacement for “Washington Football Team,” I can’t help but wonder if Shanita—who, like myself, is kind of a big deal behind the scenes—is somehow behind this failed mission.
In July, the team formerly known as the Washington Racial Slurs finally buckled to
public economic pressure and abandoned its heinous moniker in favor of the placeholder we know and love today. But since the organization is apparently too preoccupied with sexually harassing its employees to come up with something better than “The Washington Football Team,” team president Jason Wright admits the name could be here to stay.
“There are a set of folks that have warmed to the Washington Football Team,” Wright told ESPN. “Some of the things that are emerging from that are the Washington Football Team has something that ties deeply to our history. It feels like that isn’t jettisoning all the things we have been in the past, whereas something that’s completely new might feel that way. It’s important for a substantial part of our fan base to feel that this is a continuation of something versus a complete reset, something brand new.”
Look, I get it. As a lifelong sports junkie, this makes complete sense to me. Yes, I still have PTSD from Nick Anderson bricking four straight free throws in the 1995 NBA Finals, but if my Orlando Magic became the Orlando Mouse Pads tomorrow (thanks, Shanita!) I would riot. But here’s the thing: Washington’s previous name was a racial slur. Why would you want any relationship to that part of your past? Do you know how ridiculous this explanation sounds coming from, of all people, a Black man? Would he be saying the same thing if they were the Washington Jiggaboos?
“I would like it sooner than later,” Wright continued, “But it’s hard to commit to timing because the importance here is thoroughness, rigor and ensuring that we have been inclusive of all the folks that we need to listen to. That works against speed in some ways, but we’re moving as fast as possible.”
According to Wright, the team has received 15,000 submissions for either a new name or logo from 60 countries and every continent but Antartica. He also said that the team will retain its signature burgundy-and-gold color scheme and looks to have a permanent name in place by the 2022 season.
For those eager to be a part of the process, the team is even launching a Clubhouse series called “Making the Brand”—we all win if they get Chopper, his suit, and Dylan to moderate—to explore how the branding goes well beyond just a team name and logo.
“The pressure is felt from the fan base to us,” Wright said. “Dan feels it. I feel it. Our entire team feels it. This fan base deserves something that is thoughtful, that has taken their input into consideration very deeply.”
I guess we’ll see how this all plays out. Just PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t take any recommendations from Shanita.