Earlier today, the Washington Football Team and team president Jason Wright dropped a video declaring what the team’s future name will not be: the Warriors.
Our journey to a new identity continues, but one thing is clear:
Moving forward with no ties to Native American imagery is the right path.
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) July 12, 2021
Not surprisingly, after several focus groups – some centered on getting the specific input of Native Americans – the team recognized that any attempt to retain imagery or logos that harkened back to the team’s prior Native American connection were basically radioactive at this point. No feathers, no arrows, no cloaking “Redskins” as “Warriors.”
At this point, I think Wright and the team probably recognize that any attempt at linking the team’s identity to a group of people is probably fraught with sinkholes. It’s doubtful that even a team like the “Vikings” could be advanced in this day and age without running afoul of someone’s objection. No, better just to stick with animals in this climate.
Having watched the promotional video, my suspicion is, that’s exactly what Wright intends to do. There are three separate instances of “Red Wolves” logo imagery that appear in the video. Each one only appears for milliseconds in a short montage, but I’ve included screen shots of each instance below:
These are presumably either multiple fan submissions, or multiple images from a single submission, that the team received over the course of the past year. There are also “Redspears,” “Arrows,” and “[Red] Hawks” submissions included in the video, but we know the first two are out because of the potential nexus with Native American iconography.
The third, “Red Hawks” is likely too close to “Seahawks,” not to mention the fact that there are already five different teams in the NFL named after birds (Eagles, Falcons, Ravens, Cardinals, and Seahawks). The NFL has four teams named after felines (Bengals, Lions, Jaguars, and Panthers), two named after horses (Colts, Broncos), Bears, Bills, Rams, and Dolphins, but no canines.
In fact, man’s best friend is notably absent from nearly all the top US pro sports leagues. There are only two dog-themed teams in the four major US sports: the Minnesota Timberwolves, created in 1989, and Arizona Coyotes initiated in 1996 (and formerly the Winnipeg Jets).
Was the inclusion of multiple Red Wolves graphics a simple coincidence or oversight? I tend to think not. A short piece like this was likely carefully edited, with close consideration given to the verbiage used as well as the imagery presented. My guess is, it’s a bit of a “Easter egg,” gently snuck in by the team to foreshadow a future announcement.
“There’s a commonality of who [fans] want us to be as an organization and what they want the name, logo, identity and ethos to represent,” Wright said in the interview. “It’s things like resilience, grit, tradition, a sense of fight, a sense of toughness, a sense of inclusiveness, of unity.”
Almost a year ago, to the day, I asked, “what would Washington’s next name be?” The three names I threw out were
Warriors, Redwolves, and Red Tails. About the Redwolves, I wrote:
A recent up-and-comer is the “Washington Redwolves,” which satisfies the desire for an “R” name that will let the tem continue to play with “R” logos throughout its uniforms and designs, as well as keep alive the ever popular “HTTR” acronym. The Red Wolf (Canis rufus) has a historic range that covers the entire DMV, however the species is in peril, and was added to the endangered species list in 1967. It is one of the world’s most endangered wolves, but there’s the possibility that linking it to Washington’s football team could be just the profile builder the apex predator needs in order to make a comeback.
They’re social animals that hunt in packs of 5 to 8 – like our defensive front – and loyal creatures, pair bonding for life.
Even better, there is an opportunity for a regional charity tie-in to the name:
Red Wolf Recovery Coalition Partners – Five different organizations: The Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Endangered Species Coalition, and the Wildlands Network are working, primarily in North Carolina, to help protect and restore wild red wolf populations. Estimates are that approximately 25 individuals remain in the wild at this point.
And, the game day promotional opportunities are nearly endless and amazing:
The Redwolves’ mascot, “Rufus,” could lead game day chants to Duran Duran’s classic “Hungry Like the Wolf,” timed carefully with critical defensive stands. It’s doubtful, however, that wolfpack members Chase Young and Montez Sweat will be satisfied feasting on rabbits and deer:
Late in the fourth quarter, protecting a narrow lead, imagine how intimidating this would be to opposing offenses:
Against tremendous odds, red wolves have held on, resilient against the encroachments of human civilization creating fragmentation of their habitat. At this point though, they are the ultimate “underdogs,” their last remaining vestiges at risk without a miraculous intervention.
By naming Washington’s football team the “Red Wolves,” Wright and the Snyders immediately shine a light on the endangered animal’s dire situation, and simultaneously position themselves to be instrumental in its eventual recovery by catalyzing charitable efforts to protect habitat and re-introduce wolves into the wild.
What could be more unifying than the imagery of a wolfpack? Contrasted with the solitary predators listed above, canines depend on their cohorts to survive. But those individuals form a cohesive whole, working in concert. And, virtually everyone loves dogs. Dogs are the most popular pets in the US, with over 30% of Maryland households and 35% of Virginia households possessing at least one. In West Virginia, nearly 50% of households have dogs.
Finally, the retention of “Red” in the team name keeps a non-offensive shout back to the team’s past traditions. It is different, but in some respect, the same, bridging this tumultuous time in the team’s history and creating an important continuity.
At this point, I’m putting all my chips in on Red Wolves. How about you?