In a proactive move (well, on the relative scale of proactivity, considering franchise history) the Washington Football Team announced that they are no longer considering “Warriors” as a potential replacement for their prior nickname.
The statement is really more of a blog post, attributed to team president Jason Wright. It details the basic reasoning as to why the name won’t be considered:
In the spirit of that engagement, I want to address a name that has emerged amongst our fanbase, “Warriors.” One might look at this name as a natural, and even harmless transition considering that it does not necessarily or specifically carry a negative connotation. But as we learned through our research and engagement with various groups, “context matters” and that makes it a “slippery slope.”
Feedback from across communities we engaged clearly revealed deep-seated discomfort around Warriors, with the clear acknowledgment that it too closely aligns with Native American themes. Such an embrace of potentially Native-adjacent iconography and imagery would not represent a clear departure that many communities have so forcefully advocated for us to embrace, and that frankly, we set out to do when we started this process a year ago.
There are obviously many, many teams across all sports that use “Warriors” as a nickname, from Golden State in the NBA all the way down to my high school. In some cases (like my high school) the Native American connection is made obvious, and it should probably be changed. There might be situations where it’s less problematic, but given Washington’s history and the name they’re changing from, it makes all the sense in the world that they’d want to move on.
One thing that does read oddly: why even release this statement? Why is the WFT president coming out preemptively to declare they won’t be using “Warrors”? Sure, some fans may have been pushing for it, but this it’s not like it was the overwhelming favorite option at this point.
Cynically, there’s a way to read it as though the WFT is just trying to score some PR points here. While it’s certainly admirable to push the point about how even not overtly racist terms like “warrior” can still be racist, getting that lecture from the team that went by an actual overt racist name for nearly a century is pretty tough to listen to.
That said, this entire situation isn’t Jason Wright’s fault, and if you’re going to change the culture of a team, it makes sense to be as open about the strategies for that as possible. Especially as a sports franchise has a unique relationship with fans; keeping communication open on topics like this is understandable from that perspective as well. It’s a tough balance, for sure, and considering the many other issues Washington is facing right now, it’s not hard to see why they’d be hoping for some positive press right now, too.