- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Days after the franchise was officially eliminated from the playoffs, the Washington Football Team wasted no time in shifting the attention to next season — announcing Tuesday that it will unveil a new name and logo on Feb. 2.

The reveal will come on NBC’s “Today” show — the conclusion to a rebranding process that started in July 2020, when the team abandoned the Redskins moniker following a nationwide reckoning on race relations. The NFL franchise has since been called the Washington Football Team.

The Feb. 2 announcement will come days after the NFL‘s championship weekend and before Feb. 13’s Super Bowl LVI.

Team President Jason Wright said in a video — and in an article on the team’s website — that the new name will not be Wolves or RedWolves, despite those choices being popular with fans.

The team received nearly 40,000 submissions regarding the new name, and the RedWolves gained a considerable amount of traction on social media in part because of a push from former cornerback Fred Smoot.

Wright, though, said there were too many legal issues associated with the two proposed nicknames.

“Early on we understood Wolves — or some variation of it — was one of our fan favorites,” Wright wrote. “As I’ve said all along, we take feedback from our fans seriously, and because of your interest in this name, we put Wolves on a list of options to explore fully. Once we began looking into Wolves, however, we became aware of a notable challenge: Trademarks held by other teams would limit our ability to make the name our own. And without Wolves, variations like RedWolves wouldn’t have been viable either for these and other reasons.”

The NBA has the Minnesota Timberwolves, while Arkansas State is known as the Red Wolves. There are teams that share a moniker — such as the NFL’s New York Giants and MLB’s San Francisco Giants — but the United States Patent and Trademark Office often shoots down trademark applications if a name is likely to be confused with another existing trademark.

Washington produced a seven-minute video to coincide with Tuesday’s news. The in-house production featured fans and notable alumni such as former quarterback Doug Williams and coach Joe Gibbs weighing in on the rebranding process, as well as current coach Ron Rivera. The team provided a brief glimpse at the new uniforms and helmet — keeping the iconic burgundy and gold color scheme.

The new uniforms featured stripes of gold and white on the shoulder and three gold-colored stars on the collar. Both appear to be a reference to the D.C. flag.

“The hood’s looking good,” Williams said in the video. “It’s a clean uniform. I’m a guy [who believes] in clean uniforms. You just got the number and the uniform stripes around the shoulders and that’s it. That’s going to be a good-looking uniform.”

Washington has not officially recognized finalists for the name, though on an ESPN podcast in September, co-CEO Tanya Snyder acknowledged eight candidates were in the running: Armada, Brigade, Commanders, Defenders, Football Team, RedHogs, RedWolves and Presidents. Those names were previously featured in another team-produced video, though officials had denied they were the finalists.

The Burgundy and Gold have rolled out the rebrand in stages, soliciting feedback from fans and providing periodic updates. The team has taken longer to unveil a new look than did MLB’s Cleveland Guardians — who took five months to change from the Indians.

Wright told The Washington Times earlier this year that the team would monitor Cleveland’s process in order to see “some of the things that go down.” The MLB Guardians faced a lawsuit from a Cleveland-based roller derby that also went by the Guardians.

The dispute was settled in November, but the case highlighted how complicated the trademark process can be. The Cleveland baseball team’s application for the Guardians wasn’t technically filed until July in the U.S., but a legal loophole allowed the team to retroactively apply an application that had been filed overseas months earlier.

Taking advantage of an 1883 international treaty on intellectual property, Cleveland actually applied for the Guardians mark in April in the Republic of Mauritius, a small country in East Africa. The move allowed the team to keep its initial filing secret as Mauritius does not have an online trademark portal like the U.S.

Washington doesn’t appear to have yet filed a trademark application for a new name through the U.S. trademark office, though if it followed Cleveland’s route, the NFL team may have very well filed a foreign application first.

Both Washington and Cleveland chose to rebrand after steadfastly resisting calls to ditch their American Indian imagery.

In Washington’s case, owner Dan Snyder famously told USA Today in 2013 that the team would “NEVER” abandon the Redskins name. But in the summer of 2020, Snyder reversed course following protests and a push from sponsors — retiring the nickname the team had used for 87 years.

Wright has said that the team’s new name will not make any reference to or include imagery associated with American Indians. He has maintained the new look will feature ties to the region, while adding the team will also acknowledge its past. The franchise, for instance, has not discouraged fans from wearing old Redskins gear to games.

“Our journey to a new identity is a marathon, not a sprint,” Wright said in Tuesday’s video. “To get it right, we had to take every step of the process seriously, and the destination is a sum of all those parts.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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