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.
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.
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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