The U.S. government shutdown may be dominating the news, but another controversy in the nation’s capital is reaching a boiling point: the name of the city’s National Football League team, the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins have a long and storied history in the city of politics, but over the years a growing faction of people have spoken out against the name, saying it’s downright offensive to American Indians. Supporters say it’s fine, ignoring any negative implications of the team’s moniker and focusing instead on its Superbowl wins and legendary coaches and players. Team management is refusing to budge. And so the war wages on.
We’ve decided to jump into the fray – in a peaceful role. 99designs’ new community contest, launched today, is one of the most unique that we’ve ever sponsored: we’re challenging designers to create logos for any of three hypothetical new names to replace the Redskins.
(Image courtesy of The Washington Post)
We knew our designer community would enjoy tackling an NFL logo challenge, but we faced a challenge ourselves: what name or names would we use for a contest?
We decided to get suggestions from journalists who have followed the controversy closely:
- Robert McCartney, Metro section columnist for The Washington Post and a Redskins season ticket owner who has expressed his thoughts in this article and others
- David Plotz, editor of Slate, who writes here about ceasing to use the Redskins’ name in coverage
- Ken Meringolo and Kevin Ewoldt, editors of SB Nation’s Hogs Haven blog, who have frequently explored the issue
McCartney, Meringolo and Ewoldt will also help us judge submissions – we’re delighted to have them on board. Here are their picks for a new name, and the rationale behind them:
- Washington Warriors (McCartney) – “Washington is the home of the Pentagon and Defense Department, so we are the home of the U.S. military. There is a large veterans population in the D.C. region, and in neighboring states. ‘Warriors’ would fit easily in a revised version of the beloved fight song, ‘Hail to the Redskins.’ [Team] Owner Dan Snyder has already explored obtaining a trademark on “Warriors,” possibly for an arena football team, so we have reason to believe he is sympathetic to it. As suggested previously by my colleague Mike Wise, sports columnist for The Washington Post, when Snyder starts selling all the new merchandise with the new ‘Warriors’ logo, he can contribute 10 percent of the purchase price to the Wounded Warriors Project. That would attract massive goodwill, as well as help a worthy cause.”
- Washington Griffins (Plotz) – “Part eagle, part lion, part starting quarterback [Robert Griffin III].”
- Washington Renegades (Meringolo and Ewoldt) – “In addition to the badass nature of the name itself, I think the team could go back in time and adopt one of the greatest logos it ever had, which was the burgundy ‘Curly R’ on a gold helmet. It keeps the initials the same, and it allows the team to potentially adopt the image that ‘Renegades’ puts out – similar to the way Oakland and Al Davis really got cozy with the idea of ‘Raiders.’ The team could create a section in the stadium where fans could dress up in crazy getups (similar to New Orleans and Oakland) and be part of a rowdy fan group. The Renegade Brigade could take a note from some of the famous soccer fan organizations…”
Our goal is for designers to create bold, clean, non-offensive logos that capture the rich spirit and history of Washington’s football team. At the end of the contest, we plan to share the winning and top designs with Redskins owner Snyder to give him a little food for thought! Who knows what could happen?
A little more history on the controversy
The Redskins name has been controversial for decades, but in May the wheels really began to turn as 10 US congressmen urged Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, to change the team’s name, claiming it was akin to other offensive racial epithets. At the time, Goodell defended the name, arguing in a letter to Congress that it “represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement.” But just last month he flip-flopped on the issue, stating “we have to do everything that’s necessary to make sure that we’re representing the franchise in a positive way…and that if we are offending one person, we need to be listening and making sure that we’re doing the right things to try to address that.”
Some journalists and media outlets (including national news site Slate) have recently stopped using the Redskins name altogether in their coverage of the team, and The Washington Post Editorial Board voiced its opinion on the matter loud and clear a few weeks ago: “We hope…that Mr. Snyder finally understands that the team’s name — no matter its storied tradition or importance to many fans — is a racial slur of Native Americans so offensive that it should no longer be tolerated.”
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has said he’ll never change the name – and yet, perhaps he just needs to see what a fantastic rebrand could look like? (This would not be the first time a professional Washington, D.C. sports team changed its name amid an uproar. In 1995, the Washington Bullets basketball team was rechristened the Wizards due to the violence associated with the “Bullets” moniker.)
For complete details, including design suggestions from the journalists, check out our design brief. And let us know your thoughts on the controversy in the comments below!
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