In football terms, the Washington brand has become a personal foul in recent years. The club, which joined the National Football League in 1932 and on Wednesday announces its new team name, Washington Commanders, hopes that the rebranding will usher in a rally.
In the summer of 2020, only as major corporate sponsors such as FedEx threatened to leave the team, Washington dropped its outdated and offensive former name. That same year, a scandal involving sexist and demeaning treatment of the team’s cheerleaders began to unfold, and ultimately ensnarled team owner Daniel Snyder. The team’s stadium is decrepit—in an incident this past season, a railing collapse nearly took out rival quarterback Jalen Hurts after a game against Philadelphia. And there’s the fact Washington also has only been to the playoffs five times this century, and not to a Super Bowl or even a conference championship game since 1991.
Time for a rebrand, indeed. In announcing the new name, uniform and logo, Washington aimed for a tone that honored its once proud past while striking hope for the future. The message: One legacy. One unified future.
During the two-season interim when the club went by the generic moniker Washington Football Team, its helmet logo was a stylized W. The W stays as part of club insignia but has been altered to reflect the Commanders branding. A unique brand element within the NFL, Washington also unveiled a crest symbol that features core elements of the team’s identity and the franchise’s defining moments.
According to a press release, “The slanted elements of the stripes bordering the "W" are inspired by military rank insignia, helping to infuse the familiar mark with elements of the team's new identity. In the word mark, "WASHINGTON" introduces the tall and proud letters of the team's name. The cuts of the "C" lead the eye across the mark and the two stripes that frame the name pay homage to the D.C. flag and give the mark a sense of power and authority.”
New merchandise went on sale in the team store at FedEx Field and online Wednesday morning. New merchandise will include t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, sweatshirts for men, women and children, and hats.
Washington had undergone an extensive process to choose its new team name and identity. In September, the team’s co-CEO Tanya Snyder announced eight finalists for the new name: Armada, Presidents, Brigade, Red Hogs, Commanders, RedWolves, Defenders and Football Team.
Whether the new name will reverse the reputation of the franchise remains to be seen—the Commanders still have work to do in repairing their off-the-field image, as well as on-field product. Washington finished 7-10, third place in the NFC East this season.