The U.S. National Football League’s Washington franchise announced Wednesday it will now be known as the Washington Commanders, 18 months after dropping its previous name following years of complaints it was derogatory and racist.
The team, founded as the Boston Braves, became the Redskins in 1932 before moving to Washington in 1937. But since the 1970s the team received criticism from Native American activists and others who viewed its name as offensive.
Current team owner Daniel Snyder vowed repeatedly never to change it. But in 2020, following the worldwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd while in police custody, the national discussion about racial equality brought new pressure on the team.
The Washington Post reports pressure from public officials as well as threats from top sponsors such as FedEx, Nike and Pepsi prompted the team to drop “Redskins.” The team had been known simply as The Washington Football Team – or WFT – while team management conducted the process of selecting a new name.
In a statement, team owner Snyder said, “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.”
The Washington Commanders join the Cleveland Guardians – formerly, the Indians -among major North American professional sports teams abandoning names linked to Native Americans. But the Associated Press reports other teams, such as the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks and baseball’s Atlanta Braves have said they have no plans to change their names.
Source: Voice of America