Hail to the Commanders!
The Washington Football Team officially changed its name to the Washington Commanders in an announcement made exclusively on TODAY Wednesday.
“It’s a name that has the weight and meaning befitting a 90-year-old franchise," Commanders team president Jason Wright told Craig Melvin after the name was revealed. "It’s something that broadly resonated with our fans, and it’s something that we believe embodies the values of service and leadership that really define the DMV (the District, Maryland and Virginia) and this community. It’s also something importantly that we could own and grow for the next 90 years."
The team, which accepted more than 40,000 fan submissions, said in July 2020 it would no longer be known as Washington Redskins following years of charges that the nickname was racist and offensive to Native Americans.
For the past two seasons, the team was known as the Washington Football Team. Last month, team officials announced they would reveal a new name, logo and identity on TODAY.
“As an organization, we are excited to rally and rise together as one under our new identity while paying homage to our local roots and what it means to represent the nation’s capital,” Washington owner Dan Snyder said in a statement.
The team's primary uniforms will retain its long-standing burgundy and gold color scheme. Head coach Ron Rivera said the name change reflects the dawn of a new era for the franchise.
"To me it really is about renaming the team," he told TODAY. "But I also think it's about turning the page to a new chapter. We’ve had a lot of unfortunate things that have happened. But as we go forward what I’m trying to do is, hey, buy into judging us now and where we’re headed as opposed to where we’ve been.”
The team, which has won three Super Bowls, began play in 1932 as the Boston Braves. From 1933 until 1936, they were the Boston Redskins before moving to Washington in 1937. The nickname remained in place through the end of the 2019 season.
The team had been under pressure for years to change its name. In 2020, FedEx, which owns the right to the stadium where it plays, asked the franchise to change its name. That came after AdWeek reported nearly 90 companies and shareholders asked Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to sever ties with the team if it continued to play under the name Redskins.
While name changes among professional sports franchises aren't uncommon, they usually occur when a team moves to a new city. But there have been several instances of teams adopting a new nickname while remaining in place.
Most recently, baseball's Cleveland franchise changed its name from Indians to Guardians after years of complaints that the nickname and logo, known as Chief Wahoo, were offensive. This year will be Cleveland's first season under its new name. The Houston Astros also adopted their name in 1965 after three years as the Houston Colt .45s.
In 1997, the NBA’s Washington franchise became the Wizards after decades as the Washington Bullets and, previously, the Baltimore Bullets. The league’s New Orleans Hornets became the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013. The Charlotte Bobcats adopted the Hornets moniker in 2014, after the previous iteration of the Hornets left for New Orleans in 2002.
It’s also happened in the NFL. The Houston Oilers kept their name for two seasons following a move to Tennessee, but became the Tennessee Titans in 1999. The New York Jets were originally known as the Titans of New York, but became the Jets in 1963.
“As we kick-off our 90th season, it is important for our organization and fans to pay tribute to our past traditions, history, legacy and the greats that came before us," Snyder said in a statement. "We continue to honor and represent the Burgundy & Gold while forging a pathway to a new era in Washington. Today may mark the first day for the Washington Commanders, but we are and always will be Washington.”