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Washington fans want the new owner to dump the Commanders brand

Poll results!!

Atlanta Falcons v Washington Commanders Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Washington’s 2022 rebrand

No Washington football fan that was alive and conscious on 2 February 2022 is likely to ever forget the unrestrained pageantry and excitement of the day when Doug Williams, Jason Wright and the Snyders revealed the new name and uniforms for the 90-year-old franchise.

Of course, it’s hard to keep a secret, and by the time Dan and Tanya got onstage on that freezing winter morning earlier this year, the entire world already knew the name.

The decision to go with the Commanders name flew in the face of the team’s repeated claims that the process would be public and the fans’ voices would be heard. The Commanders was not a popular choice, and the response to the February announcement was a resounding thud.

Many people rightly point out that no new name would have pleased everyone, and that’s undoubtedly true. But choosing a name that will be popular with many fans while disappointing some is a different story than selecting a name that had almost no support at all, and which lacked any real imagery or meaning.

Many people have also pointed out that a lot of teams have uninspiring team names (the Browns spring to mind immediately), and that fans embrace those teams anyway. Again, this is true, but when you have an 18 month time frame, a huge budget and access to any resources you need, there’s really no excuse for making anything other than a stellar choice.

It’s also been said that the team name won’t matter if the team is winning. True enough, I guess.

But here we are in December, ten months after the announcement of the new brand. People have bought gear, games have been played, the team is winning and on track for a wilcard playoff seeding, but something still doesn’t seem quite right in Whoville. The Commanders brand is still not really being embraced by most of the fan base.

New owners; new opportunities

Last month, the Snyders announced that they had engaged Bank of America to arrange the sale of all or part of the franchise.

Nervous fans

As the weeks have ticked by with no real news about the progress of the announced sale, fans have started to get nervous about whether it will actually happen at all. There has been some speculation that Dan Snyder will get mischievous and somehow change his mind or pull the rug out from under the fans who are almost universally excited to see the end of his reign of error. With the team enjoying a bye last week, ESPN took the opportunity to publish another story about Mr. Snyder; Twitter was crackling with speculation about a Dan Snyder course change, and the winter owner’s meeting was abuzz with reporters asking owners and other reporters what they thought about the potential sale.

The concern about whether the sale announcement is some kind of smokescreen seems to be gnawing away at some fans, as the results of the weekly Reacts confidence poll have dipped again, this week falling to 71%, down from 78% last week, and the year’s high point of 85% two weeks ago.

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The team has been performing well on the field, having lost just once in the last 8 games, and they are favored to beat the visiting New York Giants on Sunday Night Football this week. With Seattle’s loss on Thursday Night Football, both the Giants and Commanders are guaranteed to stay in playoff position for another week (in the “if the season ended today” calculation) regardless of the outcome on Sunday night.

Despite the on-field success and undeniable enthusiasm about the team, there’s still a nervousness among the fan base and a lingering dissatisfaction, all of which seems to radiate from Dan Snyder. There’s a tension in the room that will probably stay around until the ink is dry on the contract and the money is transferred from one billionaire to the other and the team changes hands.

The Snyder Legacy

Mr. & Mrs. Snyder will be leaving behind quite a legacy, with a congressional investigation just concluded, a second league investigation ongoing, several other investigations and lawsuits announced or commenced by local jurisdictions, and a decrepit stadium that continues to decay in Landover with seemingly no hope of a replacement as long as Dan sticks around.

There’s not much that can be done about most of that, though there is a genuine hope and expectation that whoever the new owner is will continue to remediate the corporate culture and practices, and that a stadium deal will be a top priority in anticipation of the end of the current stadium lease in 2027.

But the big middle-finger that seems to be Dan Snyder’s parting shot as he goes out the door — the Commanders moniker and brand — is something that an incoming billionaire could do something about. Yes, I realize that the NFL has rules about changing uniforms, and that a team that has changed names twice in 3 seasons doesn’t seem like a great candidate for another change, but for many PTSD-affected fans, the Commanders name will always have the stink of Snyder attached to it.

I’ve been unable to figure out from what I’ve read and heard whether there are more fans who dislike Dan and the name enough to want it changed, or more of the other type who have either embraced the name or see it as simply impractical, impossible or undesirable to do yet another rebrand. I know there’s a lot of people in both camps, but I wasn’t sure if it was a 50/50 split, or if one side or the other comprised a majority.

Having the incredible power and authority that goes with writing the Reacts poll questions each week, I decided to find out.

This week’s Reacts question was: Assuming the team is sold by the Snyders to a new owner between now and March, should the new owner re-brand the team again (that is, change the name from the Commanders to something else) as soon as practical?

I was a little surprised to see that one side does indeed comprise a substantial majority.

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As you can see, nearly 8 out of 10 Hogs Haven readers who answered the survey question said that they want the new owner to rebrand the team again.

I think there are probably two possibilities for “as soon as practical”. The first and least likely is that the new guy hits the ground running with a rebrand already planned, and he presses the button immediately to play the 2023 season under the new name. This is an aggressive, and in my mind, unrealistic scenario.

The second and more likely opportunity would be for the owner to do the work during the 2023 season, and, in timing similar to the Commanders rebrand, announce the new (and hopefully final) team name in February of 2024. If a rebrand isn’t done in that window, then it’s probably never going to happen unless (and I see this as a very long shot) a rebranding was tied to the opening of the new stadium, presumably in 2027 — effectively relaunching the entire franchise.

Lots of people don’t want to see another rebranding

The 23% of people who voted “no” in this poll have a range of reasons. Some simply like the Commanders name (“left hand up”). Others found the rebranding process led by Jason Wright to be a wearying one, and they simply don’t want to go through it again. To those people, I would say that the process doesn’t need to be the shitshow that we suffered through along with COVID in 2020 and 2021. New owner, new approach. I think it can actually be handled professionally by someone who is a competent organizer and communicator. Some pragmatists will point to the NFL rules and say that it simply isn’t allowed. I would answer that with the observation that if you spend $6b or $7b to get into the club, you can put a few conditions into the contract. If the NFL wants Snyder out and a new stadium built, allowing the re-rebranding of the Commanders seems like a small concession to make.

The biggest argument against it in my mind is simply whether or not the new owner will see the issue as a priority. It won’t be cheap or easy, but it would allow the new guy or gal the opportunity to largely erase Snyder’s legacy and put his or her individual stamp on the team in an emphatic break from the Dan Snyder years.

Personally, I think it’s an unlikely long shot that a new owner tackles the huge job of rebranding the Washington football franchise after buying it, but I’d feel pretty good about a guy like Jay-Z getting the job done right if he took the project on. I voted “yes” in the poll, and I hope that all the prospective buyers out there are reading Hogs Haven. If you guys are reading, let me just remind you that it’s the holiday season and I have one item on my Christmas list....

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