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Three things that may prevent Red Wolves from being the new name, even as it gains popularity

Three things that may prevent Red Wolves from being the new name, even as it gains popularity

If you were to compare Washington's search for a new name to the NCAA basketball tournament — that may be the weirdest sentence in sports journalism history, by the way, so if you want to bail right now, go ahead — then the Red Wolves are like the darling 13-seed that's making a run.

At the start of the team's name review, Red Wolves was not on the radar at all. Other choices, like Warriors and Red Tails, were the primary ones folks were talking about. Even Washington FC was being mentioned ahead of Fred Smoot's favorite.

Now, though, the Red Wolves are relevant — at least in the eyes of the fans. But is that proposal really being considered by Dan Snyder and Ron Rivera?

It's difficult to discern what's truly on the table that belongs to those decision makers, but — and as a new member of the pack, this isn't fun to say — there are some things that suggest that Red Wolves isn't as legit of a contender as many would hope.

These three factors especially come to mind, and while they may dampen the howl of those in love with this particular name, they still need to be brought up.

Rivera's "two names" comment

Back on July 4, just after the franchise announced they'd be reviewing the use of the word "Redskins," Ron Rivera told the Washington Post that he and Snyder had come up with a "couple of names," two of which he "really" liked. 

If those two names, whatever they may be, are still at the top of that pair's list, it doesn't feel like the fans' devotion to Red Wolves will matter as much as they crave it to. The apparent honing in on those replacements happened well before the social media push for the Red Wolves really started.

Is it possible their preferences have since changed? Of course. Is it also possible that Red Wolves is in the group that Rivera approved of early? Sure, but that seems less likely. 

Regardless, for those pumping up just how strong the Red Wolves movement is — and it's quite strong — there's still a fairly good chance the guys heading up this effort trimmed their list down long before the movement even got going. That means this surge may not be as effective as those leading it believe. 

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The desired military tie-in

Another important piece in all of this is Rivera's intent to have the next name honor the military. That's something he made clear in the original statement about the review as well as in that interview with the Post.

Now, before you leave this page to yell on Twitter and Instagram and wherever else you go to yell, yes, there was a Navy helicopter squadron known as the Red Wolves that was active until 2016. So a tie-in does exist.

The point here, however, is that Warriors and Red Tails satisfy this requirement as well. The former is an obvious one — basically anyone in the military is a warrior in some respect — while the latter would pay tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen.

Who knows just how much say Rivera has in this complicated situation, but if his opinion does carry real weight, then it's totally reasonable to expect a name that honors the military in some way. And while landing on the Red Wolves would accomplish that, the two other more mainstream options would, too. 

A potential trademark issue

Some have pointed out that the Arkansas State Red Wolves are in a battle over that name with a Tennessee pro soccer team and are now wondering how that could impact Washington's pursuit of the moniker.

Here's what D.C. trademark lawyer Scott Zebrak told NBC Sports Washington about those kinds of possible problems.

"How closely similar are they in look as well as sound? Because it may be that you have protection for what’s called a composite mark where it’s multiple words together and not one word standing alone. It may be the 'Washington X,' not just 'X.' Those are the kind of confusion issues that you sort through."

That would indicate that Snyder and Co. would have a path to securing the Washington Red Wolves as the replacement for Washington Redskins, but perhaps he'd just want to avoid that fight altogether. Zebrak also explained that while money can help in these kinds of showdowns, whoever has more doesn't always win.

Conclusion

Any of these three factors on their own may not be enough to eliminate Red Wolves, but a combination of them or all three of them could prevent that beloved sobriquet from materializing. Red Wolves has its fair share of positives — it begins with an "R," it would fit in the fight song and it'd be unique — but it's necessary to look at the other side in addition to the bright side.

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Making a case for Warriors as Washington Football Team's new name

Making a case for Warriors as Washington Football Team's new name

It's been several weeks since the Washington Football Team announced it was retiring its former name and logo after more than 80 years. Ever since FedEx became the first known sponsor to formally ask Washington to change its name, fans have taken to social media to voice some of their favorites among potential replacements. I spoke with several marketing experts about a few of the fan-generated names, and will use their responses to make a case for some of the most popular suggestions. This is the case for Red Hogs.

Case for: Washington Warriors

When it comes to the Washington Football Team, developing a new brand has as much to do with separating itself from the previous identity as it does creating a new one.

While the team’s previous moniker provided a sense of pride and joy to some people, it was considered derogatory by others. Those offended by the name had expressed resentment for decades before the team finally decided to take action this summer. But the team only did so after its bottomline was at risk of taking a hit by corporate sponsors threatening to end their relationships with the team.

If Washington wants people to take its rebrand seriously and view it as more than a money-saving play, the team will need to completely distance itself from Native American imagery. That being considered, is Warriors a good choice as the replacement name? It depends, says Tim Derdenger, associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business.

“It depends on which direction you go with it,” Derdenger said. “I’ve read things that they want to keep the feather and go in that direction as opposed to a military warrior, more of the Indian warrior. And if they do it the latter, they’re completely missing the mark on why they’re changing their name.”

CONCEPTS: TOP 5 NEW FAN-GENERATED WASHINGTON WARRIORS LOGOS

This conundrum highlights the different things that have to be considered when undergoing a name change. It isn’t just the name; it’s also the logo, the branding on team gear and uniforms, the stadium atmosphere, the fan experience, and so much more. If the team was able to rebrand itself as the Warriors without singling out a specific race or group of people, the name could work. The Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association have a great brand and don’t use human imagery at all, going with the Bay Bridge as their primary logo.

Matt White, president of WHITE64, pointed to Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder's background in advertising and branding as a reason he thinks the team could pull it off.

“I think what you have to do is, do it in a thoughtful, logical manner, where you’re hiring a firm, which he has relationships with that can really do a great job,” White said.

The option for thoughtful branding exists in a way for "Warriors" that it doesn’t for a name like "Braves." Some fans had tossed around the latter as an option because of its history as the Washington franchise’s original name for one season in 1932, when the team was still located in Boston. But that’s a piece of history most fans likely forgot, if they ever knew it. And a Brave, by definition, is specifically a Native American warrior. The name doesn’t allow for a change in branding the same way Warriors does.

“The Cleveland Indians are already being asked to change their name. The Atlanta Braves apparently are even being looked at with that,” White said. “And again, there’s gotta be a solution that doesn’t offend somebody but that can still capture the spirit.”

CONCEPTS: TOP 5 NEW FAN-GENERATED WASHINGTON WARRIORS UNIFORM DESIGNS

That's where Warriors could be used, like Braves, to appease the base of fans who never wanted to part with the old moniker. However, Brad Nierenberg, the CEO of RedPeg Marketing, thinks choosing that name is also a choice to please those particular fans over the people who want to see a clean break. 

“If you’re gonna stay close with the Redskins, I think you’re gonna be staying with a fan base that ... you’re gonna placate the challenge to changing the name, then the Warriors and Braves are gonna be that next step,” Nierenberg said.

“I think there’s gonna be people saying they didn’t go far enough. That’s my gut.”

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This is where everything else that accompanies the name change becomes so vital. Because while it’s likely true everyone won’t be happy with Warriors, it’s possible to win over a few more people with the proper branding and imagery.

"The logo is then going to be the key part,” Derdenger said. “And what that logo will look like and how it connects back to the military warrior.

“I can’t right now see in my head what a Warriors logo looks like. ... But they have to go away from the connection to the Native Americans.”

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Burning questions: Who will break out for the Washington Football Team in 2020?

Burning questions: Who will break out for the Washington Football Team in 2020?

As training camp continues to pick up, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey will come up with, and then respond to, some burning questions facing the 2020 Washington Football Team.

To start, they each answer the following: Who will be a breakout player in Burgundy and Gold?

JP's choice: Daron Payne

I’m not sure a former first-round pick counts as a breakout player but I think Daron Payne is poised to have a monster season. He has wild strength in his hands at the point of attack, to the point I remember one AFC scout telling me he was the strongest player in the 2018 draft.

Payne has played well, but not great, through two years in the NFL. In those two seasons, he has seven sacks and nine tackles for loss. Honestly. I think he should get to those totals in this year alone.

Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio pride themselves on preaching an aggressive philosophy, particularly up front. The plan is to defend the run on their way to the quarterback. 

There is nobody on this roster that shapes up better for that approach than Daron Payne. Add in the presence of Chase Young, Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat (and the attention those guys will attract) and you'll realize why you should prepare yourself for a big, big year from D-Payne. 

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Pete's choice: Antonio Gibson

I wanted to put Steven Sims here. I also wanted to put Antonio Gandy-Golden here. But in the end, I put Antonio Gibson here. And I feel really good about that, too.

Sure, I'm a bit concerned about Gibson having to split time between running back and receiver. RBs coach Randy Jordan recently told the media that in his meetings, he's having to remind Gibson to focus on his duties in the backfield instead of on the outside. Jordan said it while laughing, but I do think there is something to the third-rounder perhaps being stretched too thin as a rookie.

Then I remember that Gibson scored 12 touchdowns on 71 offensive touches last year for Memphis.

That leads me to remember that Washington, who had the only offense IN THE LEAGUE last year to average FEWER THAN 17 POINTS A GAME, is going to need someone like Gibson to spark drives.

Then I also remember that Ron Rivera and Scott Turner are now in charge of this side of the ball, and they loved using Christian McCaffrey in Carolina, and they're going to need someone dynamic to replace Christian McCaffrey in Washington.

Then I also also remember how unproven the majority of the receivers are on this roster, which means Gibson could see a lot of targets regardless of where he lines up.

Right now, Gibson is someone who's a bit of a mystery, even to Washington fans. Come December, though, that mystery will disappear and give way to a whole bunch of production.

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