There is more momentum than ever now for the Washington Redskins to change their name, to the point it is almost an inevitability, per our Redskins reporter JP Finlay. Ironically, they play in the same city as one of the most famous cases of a professional sports team changing their name.
The Washington Wizards were the Bullets up until 1997 when they went through not only a name change but a total brand overhaul. Here are some things the Redskins can learn from what the Wizards went through...
Come up with better finalists
I personally do not have a problem with the name 'Wizards.' Maybe it is the hundreds and hundreds of games I've watched them play in my lifetime. Maybe it's been drilled into my brain like a t-shirt cannon shot into the crowd by G-Wiz.
But regardless of what you think about 'Wizards,' there is no doubt the other options they came up with as finalists were not good. Remember them? It came down to Wizards, Sea Dogs, Dragons, Express and Stallions. After a fan vote, they chose 'Wizards' and no one has likely ever considered any of the other options for a pro team since. Okay, maybe 'Dragons' isn't completely terrible.
Don't change the colors
The Wizards not only changed their name, they changed their color scheme. Instead of red, white and blue they went with a sort of teal and gold. Most would agree it did not work (though those gold unis were nice). In fact, it went so badly the team completely redid their uniforms in 2011. They kept the name 'Wizards,' but otherwise modeled their colors and jerseys entirely after the Bullets of the 1970s and 80s.
Why? Well, it's obvious. They wanted to tie back to the nostalgia of their golden years. The Redskins should probably heed that lesson and keep the burgundy and gold or they could end up regretting it just like the Wizards did.
You may never hear the end of it
My colleague Pete Hailey wrote recently about fans who are saying they won't support the team anymore if the Redskins name is changed. That is an extreme take, but don't expect the complaints to be temporary. Sure, there are different reasons for why the Bullets name was changed, but I still hear about it regularly, now over two decades since the Bullets last played a game.
All the time I see people in my Twitter mentions saying they should change it back. I hear the same from people in real life. I get asked about it on the radio every once in a while. That type of talk will carry a different connotation with the Redskins, and may look worse over time, but it is guaranteed to happen and it will probably be much more prevalent given the popularity of the team.
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They say winning cures everything and it is definitely a way to get people into your new brand. The Redskins know very well how winning can create generations of fans. Even after decades of losing, many fans have hung on due to nostalgia.
The flip side, though, is that losing games makes it more difficult to maintain loyalty. The Wizards didn't do much winning after changing their name in 1997 and that certainly didn't help their cause.
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