The United States is in the middle of an ongoing reckoning with systemic racism after — yet another — set of high profile killings of Black people. Around the country, many are reevaluating their internalized biases, while organizations and companies are making public changes to promote an anti-racist outlook. On Monday, July 13, one big change caught the public eye with the Washington Redskins' name change announcement, which comes after years of pressure to drop what many see as a racist slur.
Protests following the killings of Black individuals including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor have shown Americans' outrage about the ongoing weight of systemic racism and police brutality. While much of the current conversation has focused on the specific ways Black people in America are discriminated against, larger conversations about racism have also addressed the ways indigenous people and other groups of color are affected. On July 13, the NFL team announced in a public statement that the team would be "retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review," in reference to an internal review announced on July 3. The announcement did not include any details about what the new team name might be, or when it would go into effect.
On social media, many people applauded the decision. The team name and logo have for years been criticized as offensive and a slur against indigenous Americans, as Native American activists have widely objected to their identities and heritage being used as mascots. Following the announcement, people celebrated the decision and shouted out the advocates who had worked for it.
However, some also called out the move as necessary, but incomplete. Activists have previously criticized companies and municipalities for allegedly making surface-level changes, like name changes, anti-racist advertisements, or painting slogans like "Black Lives Matter" on streets, without doing the systemic work to address racist structures within their organizations. Some criticized the NFL team's move as based in financial concerns rather than real accountability, after reports that sponsors including FedEx and Nike had pushed for the name change.
Many fans and supporters of the change have already started thinking about options for a new name. Two of those thrown around on Twitter were the Washington Red Tails — in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, a Black air combat force during World War II — or the Redwolves, with fans sharing their versions of potential new logos and support for their preferred rebranding.
This news from the Washington NFL franchise follows a similar move from the MLB's Cleveland Indians, which dropped its Chief Wahoo mascot in 2019, also over criticisms of racism. The MLB team also announced on July 3 that they will reevaluate their name branding. It's not the first time a Washington sports team has had to change its name to address controversy — the Washington Wizards NBA team was previously known as the Washington Bullets, until concerns about gun violence in the mid-1990s prompted a switch-up in 1995.