Washington Football Team president watching Cleveland Guardians to avoid any 'gremlins' in name change

·2 min read

The Washington Football Team is keeping a close eye on the rollout of the Cleveland Indians name change to ensure they aren't beset by any of the same "gremlins" when they do it next year.  

Washington team president Jason Wright told ESPN he's monitoring the issues the MLB franchise encounters after it announced its new name, the Cleveland Guardians, last week. Wright said earlier this month the Washington Football Team will announce its new name and logo in early 2022

Washington keeps close eye on MLB name change

Wright said he's looking at the intricacies of a professional sports team making a name change and the complications his own team might face. 

"One of the things I'm continuing to watch is ... what happens from here on out? What are the legal and trademark things that pop up?" Wright told ESPN. "How do they navigate those going forward? Just the little boogeymen of implementation that might pop up is interesting to me."

Washington Football Team president Jason Wright.
Washington Football Team President Jason Wright is keeping an eye on an MLB name change. (Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports)

Both franchises are leaving behind nicknames that were offensive to the Native American community. Washington said in July 2020 it would change its nickname and logo. It rebranded temporarily to "Washington Football Team" while gathering out information on other names. 

"It will never be perfect," Wright said. "But I do want it to be as seamless as possible and of the quality it deserves so these little things, these gremlins that can pop up in the implementation process, is of great importance to me. Once we roll this out it needs to be something, irrespective of the initial reaction of the fans, that we don't do anything to self-inflict making that process more challenging."

Wright said the team will not be named the "Washington Warriors" as it "too closely aligns with Native American themes." Potential names include Monarchs, Presidents, Wild Hogs, Ambassadors and Renegades. 

Potential problems in professional sports nicknames

Any professional sports team changing its nickname has the obvious concern of not picking a name that is offensive or racist toward a group. There's also the issue of being accepted by the team's longtime fans, which can be tricky. The backlash is highly likely, at least at first. And how the Cleveland team handles it can provide a roadmap for Washington. 

But there are also legal issues. In the Guardians' case there is already an amateur men's roller derby team in the city with the same name. It has held the name and logo for years and also has the domain name and social media account. The MLB team might have to pay the roller derby team to avoid a potential trademark infringement lawsuit and take over such internet necessities as the Facebook name, "Cleveland Guardians." 

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