For the first time since the sport arrived in the nation’s capital in 1937, there won’t be a racial slur associated with D.C. football.
The Washington Football Team now stands as a fill-in replacement for the much-maligned Redskins name that endured for more than 80 years. All Native American imagery, long considered racist when used by the organization, has been set aside.
Owner Dan Snyder did not make the decision to transform the franchise until this summer, just months before the start of the 2020 campaign. His hand was forced by outside pressure he could no longer ignore.
Despite critics decrying the name change as a response to a so-called politically correct culture of the 2010s, it’s important to note activists had fought against the term Redskins since at least 1972. There was never a time in modern American history in which the franchise’s former identity was universally accepted.
It’s true, though, that the turn of the century welcomed increased scrutiny to the organization, and public perception of its name shifted dramatically since 2000. A combination of social and financial factors well outside the scope of the NFL pushed the team to finally follow through with abandoning the Redskins name this summer.
Here’s a timeline of events that led to the name change, as well as information about what comes next for the Washington Football Team:
Washington Redskins name change timeline
1933: Boston’s football team changes its name from Braves to Redskins.
1937: The Boston Redskins move to D.C. and are called the Washington Redskins.
1972: At the request of Native American leaders, Washington changes its fight song to remove the offensive lyric “Scalp ‘um.”
1992: A petition to revoke the team’s trademarks for disparaging Native American people is brought to the U.S. government but unresolved for the next 17 years, when it is ultimately denied.
1999: Daniel Snyder, a longtime fan of the Redskins, purchases Washington’s football team.
2006: Another petition is filed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office asking for the legal protection of the team’s name to be rescinded.
2013: Snyder infamously tells USA Today the Redskins name will never change under his watch, saying, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
May 25, 2020: Unarmed Black man George Floyd is killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who pushed his knee down on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. The incident sets off nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice in the U.S. that are still ongoing. Protests in every major American city help elevate discussion about discrimination in the U.S., extending to the Redskins name and its disrespect of Native American culture.
July 1, 2020: Investors worth over $620 billion sent letters to Nike, Pepsi and FedEx calling for the end of their sponsorships of the team.
July 3, 2020: FedEx, which holds naming rights to the franchise’s stadium, formally asks the Redskins to change their name. Nike, meanwhile, pulls Washington gear from its website. The team says it will review its name.
July 13, 2020: Responding to mounting pressure to change its name that for the first time includes significant financial stakes, the team announces its severance from the Redskins name and logo. The moniker is replaced by Washington Football Team until a permanent name is agreed upon and trademarked.
July 16, 2020: The popular “Madden” video game series announces it will not feature the Redskins in “Madden 21” despite having the old logo in initial promotional materials. It will instead promote the organization as the Washington Football Team.
July 23, 2020: The Washington Football Team unveils its updated 2020 uniforms.
Sept. 13, 2020: The Washington Football Team plays its first regular-season game with its new branding against the rival Eagles.