Jason Wright hasn’t gotten a lot of coverage since the regular season kicked off — at least not much that I’ve seen — but he has a blog space on the Washington Football Team website, and he took to that space on Tuesday to talk to fans directly about what’s going on with the name of the Football Team.
Before I was hired, the organization announced there would be an 18-24 month process to establish a new brand. And once I joined, I had talked about this being a longer process to ensure substantive engagement with communities. But what I realize is that we need to say that a lot more often, and that you also need to hear the reasoning behind that process.
What prompted this was, in Jason’s own words, a “casual, off-the-cuff mention that we could still have the “Washington Football Team” name into the 2021 season” that he made to a reporter last week.
The response from fans to the news that Ron Rivera’s squad could take the field again in the 2021 season still known as The Washington Football Team (established in 1932) was...well, it wasn’t enthusiastic. Jason Wright wanted to explain himself a bit.
You, our fanbase, are our top priority, and I understand the push by some to quickly pick a name, I say to you, “We owe it to this fan base and this franchise to do the hard work!” There’s a lot of business-y jargon I could throw at you about market analyses and legal hurdles, but that’s not what is important. What it really comes down to is including all of our fanbase — past, present, and future — in this process. There are a certain percentage of our fans who are very active online, and we hear you loud and clear (Insert fight song remixes and other exuberances here). There’s also a large group of our fans who don’t regularly participate in our social and digital channels; we need to hear from them, too. So while online polls are an input that we’ll use, they’re just a small piece of the total picture.
We need to understand why they are important to fans. Are we a deeply environmentally conscious fan base? Are we longing for a simple chant or sound to unify the stadium and make us feel like one? Is preserving “HTTR” as an acronym critically important to connect to our past?
Understanding these things will help us make the best decisions, not just on the name, but also how we design everything around the name from the logo to the fan experience to our charitable portfolio. We are not moving slowly but taking the time to really know you. It’s also important to seek out and understand the new fans who we can attract and can bring to the Washington Football household via a new brand.
Jason Wright also discussed the reasons he had heard for why fans want to move past the WFT non-name and into a new identity as soon as possible. He mentioned the general klunkiness of the non-name, and how often we have to endure ridicule during game broadcasts and at other times and other places. He discussed the idea of the franchise needing a “jumpstart”; especially with all the organizational changes that have taken place in this calendar year. A new team name would spark greater fan support for the new identity. And he addressed the perception that it’s just not that hard to pick a name, saying, “There are some who believe not picking a name show incompetence, which is disheartening for folks.”
Let me declare my position here. I’ve done so before, but only once or twice and people may not be sure.
I’m perfectly fine with the Washington Football Team moniker as a placeholder. I’d much rather the organization take a bit more time and get it right than rush it and get it wrong; after all, we want to use the new nickname for at least the next hundred years, and it will be central to the new identity.
In a world where Tony Romo immediately becomes Tony Homo, the Redskins are the Deadskins or the Foreskins and Cleveland is the Mistake by the Lake and its football stadium is the Factory of Sadness, there’s no escaping from the ridicule, whether it’s juvenile or clever. So, if opposing fans — and, to be fair, lots of Washington fans — want to refer to the team as “WTF” or television graphics and opposition blogs refer to us as “Football Team”, I don’t really care.
I know a fair few people panicked when Dan Snyder answered a hypothetical question about a month ago by saying that, if the fans embraced the Washington Football Team name, then it could become permanent.
Far from signalling the realistic possibility that the “W” logo and the current retro design would become permanent, I think Snyder was simply trying to communicate that nothing had been ruled out, that the process was open and ongoing, and that the name and direction would be driven by fan input.
In many ways, the regular season has put the name issue onto the back burner. Aside from Snyder’s short comment and Jason Wright’s off-the-cuff remark, the emphasis has been on football more than the name since September — and that’s how it should be.
But come January (assuming the team isn’t busy winning playoff games), the name issue will likely move quickly front and center again. Come January and February, the name change discussion will be a prominent part of the off-season headlines and discussion, just as it was for a few months this past off-season.
And Jason Wright wants fans to be patient, so he’s starting to inoculate us now.
At our current pace, we hope to have chosen a new name by the middle of next year. While we won’t be able to reveal that immediately, choosing the name is just part of the process. For example, let’s say we reveal our new name at some point before the beginning of the 2021 season without going through all the detailed design work of a new logo, creating merchandise, and clearing the legal hurdles to secure it all. Not only would that make for a trademarking headache, but it would also be an embarrassing and chaotic launch to what should be a proud and poignant moment for the franchise. And if I’ve heard one thing consistently from you, it’s that you want a professionalized organization, not prone to knee-jerk reactions and making smart business decisions.
The team president wants to remind us that it isn’t just the Washington franchise that has had to take its time in branding or re-branding.
The Seattle Kraken (super dope name in my opinion!) took four years to launch their brand. It was a two-year process for the Los Angeles Rams to change their logo. We are moving at a quicker pace because we know you want this completed and we do, too. But, at the same time, we want to do right by you, and that does take time.
And he’s ready to make a promise to all of us.
So yes, we could possibly remain the Washington Football Team in 2021, but I hope you now understand a bit of the “why.” I know being patient is not easy, but I promise you this: you won’t have to go another season with uncertainty beyond 2021, and if you commit to participating in the journey in the coming months, our identity will be one that we can proudly say is ours.
Jason Wright has given us a strong indication that the burgundy & gold will likely be the Washington Football Team for another season, but that — and this is his promise — there will absolutely be a new team identity for 2022 at the latest.
For me, that’s good enough.
I do care a lot about the team colors staying the same, and I think they will.
I wouldn’t be unhappy if the team could hold onto “HTTR”, but that’s not a deal-breaker for me.
There are a couple of names that would make me quit the team and become a Seahawks fan — Redtails and Monuments are at the top of that list.
But, assuming that the people charged with the re-branding use the time to do the right kind of work and that they roll out a new image that we can all rally around, I’m perfectly willing to go through another 25 regular season games with the Washington Football Club moniker, no matter how many challenges it creates for me when I’m writing articles for the blog.
Which of these comes closest to describing your attitude?
This poll is closed
I don’t mind waiting until after the 2021 season, as long as they get it right
I don’t like it, but there’s nothing I can do about it
It’s stupid to drag this out through another season of football. This should be resolved before the 2021 season kicks off.
The whole thing is a fiasco — they should still be the Redskins.
Yeah... I just don’t really care about this. Do I have to read this kind of crap for the entire bye week?
F—k it. Just pick a name and move on.
Whatever they do needs to have a strong connection to the past — colors, band, fight song and HTTR are all important
Whatever they do needs to be a complete break with the past — update the image and make it something that will appeal to a new generation of fans.