The Washington Commanders have been under new ownership for a few months now, and there are likely many changes in store for the franchise over the next year. One thing that will remain in the past, though, is the old name.
At a dinner at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night, Commanders managing partner Josh Harris and top limited partner Mitchell Rales told the media and the assembled crowd of almost 700 people that they will not be changing the Commanders back to the Redskins, the name the team ditched in 2020.
“That ship has sailed,” Rales said via the Washington Post. “We’re not going to re-litigate the past. We’re about the future. We’re about building the future and not having a divisive culture that we’re engaged in. We’re going to look at everything come the end of the year and think about a lot of different things and do a lot of testing and see what people think. And we’ll learn. The beauty is we have the time to look at all of this stuff intelligently and make fan-based decisions.”
The team shed the Redskins name in 2020 amidst a summer of racial protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. Some Native American rights groups had protested and campaigned for a new name for years, only for now-former owner Dan Snyder to dig in and state confidently that the name would never, ever be changed.
When Snyder finally caved, it was almost certainly about money. The decision was announced shortly after FedEx, which owns the naming rights to the Commanders' stadium, reportedly threatened to end their sponsor agreement with the team six years early if the name was not changed. That would have cost Snyder and the team nearly $50 million a year.
Rales confirmed there will be other changes, though in the immediate future they're focusing on improving both the fan and player experience at FedEx Field. As far as other changes, since the new ownership group took over in July, there wasn't much time to make major staffing decisions before the season kicked off. But a year from now, the team could look entirely different on both sides of the ball, possibly with a new general manager, head coach and quarterback.
But if they have a new name, they won't be reaching into the past to find it.
(Disclosure: Josh Harris is a co-founder of Apollo Global Management, which owns Yahoo, Inc. He left the private equity firm in 2022.)