Since we made the decision to change our name, the past nine months have given us a unique opportunity to reevaluate our organization in terms of who we are today and what path we want to take into our future. A key to that determination is acknowledging and understanding our past. You could say it’s a chance to “watch the film” on ourselves, not just through our eyes, but also through the perspectives of others.
It’s no secret why we began this journey of finding a new brand identity. It centered around our old name and its use of Native American imagery and racialized language. Though I wasn’t here for the rescinding of the name, I believe it was done with faith that the connective ties of this fan base run deep and that the deeply loved traditions and positive aspects of our identity can be preserved and even enhanced under a new name that does not offend any member of our community. Quite simply, it is the right thing to do.
We recognize that not everyone is in favor of this change. And even the Native American community offers a range of opinions about both our past and path forward. But in these moments, it is important to prioritize the views of those who have been hurt by our historical use of Native American language, iconography and imagery.
Let me also be clear: moving on from the old moniker does not invalidate the poignant memories so many of you had with loved ones watching your football heroes in burgundy and gold.
Jason Wright, Team President
Those are moments to cherish, and we need your help to ensure we preserve those memories under a new banner that should bring even more fans into the Washington family.
With this in mind, we made it a priority to run an inclusive process to listen to all voices. We have given particular emphasis to engaging, listening and learning from Native American leaders and individuals throughout the country. This process has exposed to us the very deeply-held personal feelings about our previous imagery and association — and not just the simple, easy-to-categorize “who’s for or who’s against” polling of our old name, but research revealing the psychological effects of Native American team names on American Indian and Alaska Native youth.
In sum, this engagement demonstrated to us a consensus that moving forward with no ties to Native American imagery is the right path. I am personally and deeply grateful for the Native American community leaders who engaged with us, sharing painful, raw and real stories that persist to this day. Their stories affirmed our decision to move in a new direction in the creation of our new name and identity, and we are proudly forging ahead in this journey with a promise to our community — a promise to continue to be inclusive in our process and collaborative with our fans.
In the spirit of that engagement, I want to address a name that has emerged amongst our fanbase, “Warriors.” One might look at this name as a natural, and even harmless transition considering that it does not necessarily or specifically carry a negative connotation. But as we learned through our research and engagement with various groups, “context matters” and that makes it a “slippery slope.” Feedback from across communities we engaged clearly revealed deep-seated discomfort around Warriors, with the clear acknowledgment that it too closely aligns with Native American themes. Such an embrace of potentially Native-adjacent iconography and imagery would not represent a clear departure that many communities have so forcefully advocated for us to embrace, and that frankly, we set out to do when we started this process a year ago.
We have 89 years of history in this league and failing to acknowledge our past use of Native imagery in the consideration of the new name wouldn’t be mindful of the individuals and communities that were hurt by the previous name. We’ve made significant changes in our organization and our culture, and our new name must reflect these changes.
To that end, we will choose an identity that unequivocally departs from any use of or approximate linkage to Native American imagery.
Jason Wright, Team President
I know this may be disappointing for some folks. But as I have said many times before, our new identity should unite us. It should bring us together the way this team comes together on the football field and the way we have seen our Fans come together and proudly support our Team and our DMV community.
With Training Camp around the corner and the 2021 season nearly upon us, we feel the momentum building. During this offseason we have made significant progress in our rebrand journey and are entering a very exciting phase. We are now down to a short list of final names based on our strategic approach, research process, and insight phase. We will continue to rely upon the insight and support of many of you as it moves forward to a final decision. As a team, we are confident that our new brand identity will honor our legacy and lead us into our future as a franchise.