- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2020

When the franchise he rooted for practically his whole life changed its name to the “Washington Football Team,” Jared Wasser swore he wasn’t going to buy any new merchandise that might just become outdated in a year or two. But the 35-year-old Laytonsville, Maryland, resident didn’t take long to change his mind.

Over the past few months, Mr. Wasser has already bought three t-shirts and two hoodies. And this week, days ahead of Christmas, he received a Washington Football Team beanie and scarf as part of a “Secret Santa” gift exchange for work. Yes, he had asked for the items.

“I’m absolutely for getting more,” Mr. Wasser said.

Mr. Wasser has not only come to terms with the name change, but he’s warmed up to “The Washington Football Team” brand — like many Washington fans have in the months since the team officially retired the nickname “Redskins.” And as part of the holiday season, those fans are now actively seeking Washington team gear.

The shift has come as Washington still searches for a new name. This week, TMZ reported that Washington is leaning toward either keeping the “Washington Football Team” or slightly altering it to “Washington Football Club.” Team president Jason Wright shot down the story on Twitter, though he has said the franchise will use its temporary name again in 2021.

Kelly O’Keefe, a marketing consultant who helped the University of North Dakota go from the “Fighting Sioux” to the “Fighting Hawks,” is not surprised that fans have started to let go of the old nickname.  

“It’s a very normal thing,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “Time heals all wounds when it comes to branding. If we think about it, we’ve had a lot of brands in our lives changed over the years … It’s something we always take into account when renaming institutions: There’s going to be a bit of a backlash and it’s understandable.”

Tim Hartman was among those devastated when he found out Washington would no longer use Redskins. A season-ticket holder whose parents met at the team’s Super Bowl parade in 1983, Mr. Hartman, 26, said he loved the team so much that he got a tattoo of the Redskins’ logo on his butt. The Alexandria resident said he cried when he found out the news.

Mr. Hartman, though, was wearing a Washington Football Team facemask when picking up a meal at a local fast food restaurant on Sunday. He, too, has come around on the name.

Mr. Hartman said he’s been reluctant to ask for any new memorabilia for Christmas — he’s worried that the name will change — but when he attended Washington’s game against the New York Giants in October, he bought a “Washington Football Team” hat.

“I think the logo looks pretty cool at this point,” Mr. Hartman said. “It’s just clean. I don’t want them to change it again. I just want them to keep it as what it is because I know it can’t go back.”

There are people, of course, who might never adapt. Coach Ron Rivera said that he heard from disappointed and angry fans after the change. “Believe me, I’ve gotten some of the notes,” he said. Others such as Twitter user “@SonnyandSam” wrote, “Once a Redskins fan ONLY a Redskins fan. None of this PC new age BS for me.”

For the diehards, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to purchasing Redskins gear. Online retailers like eBay and Amazon offer an array of Redskins merchandise — even though Amazon said in July that the company would pull any items featuring the name, which many deem offensive. Retailers for the latter have tried to get around the ban by labeling items such as “Reds&kins” and “Red_kins.”

But many fans say they now see the old Redskins’ logo and name as something that belongs to the past. Mr. Wasser, for instance, said he won’t wear most of his Redskins gear in public anymore out of fear of backlash. He keeps the memorabilia in a closet, though plans to give some of it away.

Chad Jones, a 32-year-old Washington fan from Pennsylvania, said as much as he wants to still embrace “Redskins,” he said he’s moving forward by embracing “football team.” He’s asking for a Chase Young or a Terry McLaurin jersey for Christmas.

Mr. O’Keefe, meanwhile, said Washington has helped itself in keeping its burgundy and gold color scheme, giving fans a reason to help “bring them along.” He also said the team’s current memorabilia might become a rare collector’s item if Washington continues to rebrand.

“It’ll be a litmus test for real hard core fans that their closet has all three names represented,” Mr. O’Keefe said.


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