Naming the Washington Football Team

Arrogance is leadership: the Dan Snyder way.


March 4, 2022


Steve Berry

Naming the Washington Football Team
"We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER - you can use caps."

— Daniel Snyder, 2013

That statement is a problem.

Twenty years ago, Snyder bought one of the most valuable and openly racist brands, the Washington Redskins. The purchase followed three decades of (recorded) protests from Native Americans. Snyder refused to change the team's name. Thankfully, public opinion caught up. The #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements spotlighted the exploitation of subjugated groups in a way not seen since the Civil Rights of the sixties.

Snyder was suddenly faced with the uncomfortable truth of how progress works: you don't need everyone to create change. You just need enough.

FedEx publicly asked Snyder to change the team name on July 2, 2020. Nike removed products containing the brand from their online store. Snyder immediately announced a "thorough review of the team name". "Just enough" arrived.

Snyder's bluster of "tradition" and pointing at public support lay the real motivating factor: profit. Behind Snyder's arrogance existed the real personal failing: incompetence.

It's one thing for someone to completely disregard the centuries-long tradition of American progressivism against racist institutions. Still, it's another thing entirely to just have your team name be the "Redskins."

On an elementary level, do you want a brand that, just by its own name and logo, must defend itself as not being racist?

Eventually, Snyder responded with either apathy or poor taste. "The Commanders." Terrible...

Don't normalize defending your brand as part of its identity. Don't squander the connection between your fans and your product. Your fans aren't stupid. They'll see you don't have the leadership to lead the team.

Ironically enough, Snyder lost control of the team's most public characteristic: its image.

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