New Name, New Look…New Culture?

Washington’s NFL team unveiled its new name on Wednesday, 18 months after retiring their previous one over mounting pressure that the name & logo, established in the 1930s, had racist connotations. The new name & look was scheduled to be announced @ an official press conference outside of FedEx field until a video shot from a helicopter near the stadium circulated on Twitter Tuesday night, spoiling the reveal.

“One legacy. One unified future” is the new Washington Commander motto & for their fans & staff’s sake, we sure hope they mean it. Since Dan Snyder purchased the team in 1999 for 800M, they have been at the center of a multitude of controversy & anything but “unified”

Over the course of 20+ years, Dan Snyder openly refused to cave under mounting pressure from Native American groups, who claimed the original team name “Redskins” had racist connotations. That all changed in the Summer of 2020 following George Floyd’s murder & the backlash that ensued in the months following. This pivotal moment shined new light on the existence of racism in America & sparked a necessary change to address it at every level.

In 2020, Washington’s largest sponsors, from FedEx to Nike & Amazon, decided enough was enough & stepped in demanding the name be changed or pull their sponsorships. Faced with no other option, Snyder finally agreed. The interim name became “Washington Football Team” until this morning’s new team name, “Washington Commanders”, was announced.

Outside of the name change, the franchise has been in the media for all the wrong reasons. In the weeks following the name change, 15 Women employees & 2 journalists covering the team filed suit, claiming allegations of sexual harassment & verbal abuse.

Cheerleaders featured in “Beauties on the Beach”, the official video chronicling the making of the Washington NFL team’s 2008 cheerleader swimsuit calendar, frolic in the sand, rave about their custom bikinis, and praise a photographer for putting them at ease in settings, where sometimes only a strategically placed prop or tightly framed shot shielded otherwise bare breasts.

What the cheerleaders didn’t know was that another video, intended strictly for private use, would be produced using footage from that same shoot. Set to classic rock, the 10-minute unofficial video featured moments when nipples were inadvertently exposed as the women shifted positions or adjusted props.

The allegations were first reported by The Washington Post. The newspaper obtained screenshots of text messages where Richard Mann II, the team’s assistant director of pro personnel, made inappropriate, sexual comments to a female employee.

Mann was ultimately fired.

Former employees also accused Larry Michael, the team’s former senior vice president of content and play-by-play announcer, of talking about the attractiveness of a college intern in 2018 when he was being recorded for a team video, the newspaper reported.

Michael retired shortly after.

In July of 2021, the NFL fined Washington Football Team $10M, following an investigation into the team’s culture. Based on the independent investigation findings by Beth Wilkinson, Commissioner Roger Goodell came to the conclusion that Washington had operated “both, generally and particularly for women,” per the league statement, in a “highly unprofessional” manner that included bullying, intimidation, multiple allegations of sexual harassment and a “general lack of respect in the workplace.” Again faced with no other option, team owner Dan Snyder began implementing a self-described “change of culture”, in an effort to “erase any signs of systemic oppression”.

In January of 2021, Washington became the first team in NFL history to appoint minorities as head coach (Ron Rivera), GM (Martin Mayhew), and president (Jason Wright), AND the first to have a Black woman as a full-time assistant coach with the hiring of Jennifer King. Dan Synder has since bought out his 3 partners & appointed his Wife Tiffany Snyder as Co-CEO. “Her perspective to implement necessary changes in this modern age will be priceless,” Snyder told the Washington Post when her role was announced.

It’s no secret that Synder has been the league’s worst owner since his arrival; however, it does at least appear that he’s trending upwards & making the necessary changes in culture, staff & aesthetics in order to get his team back on track & he should be commended for that.

It’s not certain that changes will make much of a difference, but hopefully, the new team name & uniform will mark a fresh start & new beginning moving forward for NFL’s 5th most valued team ($4.2B). One free from the black cloud of controversy that’s hovered in our Nations Capital above FedEx Field for the last 21 years.

Original Article
Eric White
NSPN – Champa Bay TV