Should the Washington Redskins change their name?
It would seem obvious that the Redskins name is death to Washington NFL franchise owner Daniel Snyder, who you would think would want the focus of those providing free media about his team be on things like whether Robert Griffin III and new coach Jay Gruden can lead a return to the playoffs and other on-field activities rather than on how big of a racist millions think the team owners and management have to be to continue using a slur as a team nickname.
You don’t become a billionaire by accident, though, so it might be worth examining the reasons why Snyder is holding steadfast in his refusal to publicly consider a name change.
Rule out that he’s just that tone-deaf, for starters. And rule out as well that there’s fear that the loyals in the fan base would never forgive him for changing the name. Those who wouldn’t flock the stores and the team website to get their new gear would just wear their old stuff to games and around town as a form of mock protest until finally giving in and joining the herd.
So why, then? Why not just give in to convention, realizing that the public-relations battle is lost, make good with the critics, make good with the fan base, and change the name, and open up a new market for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of sales in new T-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, sweatpants, jackets, pullovers, hats and the rest?
It has to be the old P.T. Barnum saying. Not the one about a sucker being born every minute, the other one, I don’t care what you write about me, just spell my name right.
Not that this is anywhere near the best PR campaign idea ever, but what I think we see going on here is Snyder and his circle not only embracing, but actively inviting the criticisms coming their way over the name Redskins, as a way to draw attention to their product.
Think about this in the vernacular of pro wrestling. Snyder has turned the Redskins into the NFL’s top heels. The University of Minnesota has vowed to bar the Minnesota Vikings from promoting their game with Washington in November at the UM home field with the Washington team nickname, opening the door to similar actions in cities and counties across the country with publicly-financed stadiums, which is to say, across the entirety of the NFL.
WWE gets heat for having one of its wrestlers actively rooting for Russian President Vladimir Putin in his efforts to thumb his nose at the world; the Redskins don’t have to say a word to get their heat, because the name across the top of their uniforms and the logo featuring a red-faced Native American say it all for them.
That kind of heat wouldn’t be necessary if the product that Snyder put on the field was worth writing about, but the Washington team during the Snyder era has been nothing short of an embarrassment, somehow not even able to win with two of the better coaches the NFL has ever seen, Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan, working under Snyder.
That guy that WWE has jonesing for Putin, Rusev, isn’t that much to watch in the ring, either, but in repeatedly dissing America to boost the old KGB’er, fans pay good money to see opponents try to rip his face off.
Football fans outside the Redskins bandwagon (plenty of good seats still available) would otherwise hear as much about the Washington Redskins as they do, oh, how about the Jacksonville Jaquars, and all the media attention they get these days.
(I’m not making that up, Jacksonville actually has an NFL team, and it’s actually called the Jaquars.)
The moral to this story is that the more we feed Daniel Snyder what he wants, that is, attention, the less likely he is to do what most of us want him to do, which is join the late 20th century, then at least think about the 21st, and go ahead and engage the branding professionals already to work on Team Nickname 2.0.
Or we can keep talking about Snyder, and prove ourselves to be the subjects of that other P.T. Barnum saying that no doubt comes to mind for the billionaire playing us all like an old Walkman.
– Column by Chris Graham