Commanding Change: Controversy and Activism Surround the Washington Commanders


In July 2020, a much needed change came to one of the oldest teams in NFL history.  The Washington football team had decided after 82 years to ditch their team name.

 “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps,” said Owner Dan Synder on Sporting News.

Even after Synder said this in 2013, he still succumbed to the pressure to change his teams title.

After many people and organizations started pushing for the name to be changed, the team’s sponsors, FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo told the owner Dan Synder to change the name.

Many Native American organizations and activists urged the team to change their name.

Organizations including NCAI (National Congress of American Indians), NARF (Native American Rights Fund) and people like  US Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, PGA Golfer Notah Begay, and lacrosse legend Lyle Thompson rallied for change.

The name was under much scrutiny over its racist connotations. The term “Redskin” is a derogatory term to the indigenous peoples of North America.

After this mounting pressure,  owner Dan Snyder decided to ditch the name and have the team play under “the Washington football team” for a year until they could pick a new name.

February 2nd 2022, after a season as the “Football Team” Dan Snyder announced the new name being the Washington Commanders.

Many believe that some better options are the Washington Brigade and the Washington Redwolves. The reason they chose commanders was the connection to D.C. and its military history, as well as it being easy to trademark. 

“The Commanders seem to be a better choice than the Washington Football Team because now the team’s fans have a name to cheer for. Better than yelling a racial slur at tv’s,” said Hunter Gutterman an RHS student athlete and football fan.  

“It was good that they changed it. I feel like the new name isn’t great. But it was something that was needed,” said Jacob Stephen another student athlete.  

These two believe that the rename was a needed change, although the new one isn’t amazing. This thought is very consistent with many people who commented on the new name.  

After the re-name, many sports pundits have made their opinion heard.  Stephen A Smith from ESPN’s First Take said the new name was “corny.”

Pat McAfee on his podcast The Pat McAfee show said they should have put more thought into what the shortened name would be. For example, the Green Bay Packers are “The Pack” and the Arizona Cardinals are “The Cards.”

The only possible shortened name for the commanders would be the “Commies,”  which for many reasons is not an ideal choice.

Many believe the rename is being used to distract people from what is really happening in the organization. 

Allegations of workplace misconduct and sexual harassment have been brought up against owner Dan Synder by six employees in the franchise.

The NFL is currently investigating these claims and are trying to get the findings published, though they need Snyder’s permission to do so. Snyder is currently trying to hire his own investigation team which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says will not provide sufficient information. 

The common belief among fans is that he should be removed from his position. Ownership of a team should be about keeping the spotlight on the team and having them succeed. He is taking the spotlight off the team and making it hard for them to win. 

Many fans and pundits think of Snyder as the worst owner in the NFL. He has also come under much pressure to sell the team. If Snyder and the organization are found guilty, he will most likely be forced to sell the team.

We will finally know the extent of these allegations once the NFL can announce the findings of their investigation. Hopefully, the proper measures will be taken and justice will be served.  

As team head coach Ron Rivera tries to help the team succeed in spite of these allegations, many fans hope that moving on from Snyder could help the team move away from the disgraced past.