BY Bryan Chai, The Western JournalMay 26, 2023
1 year ago
 | May 26, 2023
1 year ago

NFL Team May Need to Change Name After Feds Send a Notice to Ownership

Being a fan of the Washington NFL team is tough.

Whether it's been called the Redskins, the Football Team or the Commanders, the team simply hasn't been consistently good since winning its last Super Bowl in 1991.

In fact, since that Super Bowl, the team now called the Commanders has had just three seasons where it won 10 or more games. Conversely, in that same time frame, it has had 14 seasons where it lost 10 or more games.

But while the football product has been lacking for fans, in an embarrassing twist, the off-the-field incidents might be even worse than the debacle of a team Washington fields year in and year out.

Much of the franchise's shame falls on beleaguered owner Dan Snyder, who is in the middle of selling the team.

The sordid tale leading up to that sale of the franchise involved federal investigations, alleged financial violations and accusations of, effectively, pimping out the team's cheerleaders.

That's to say nothing about the Commanders' FedEx Field, largely considered to be the worst NFL stadium in existence.

As divisive as sports fandom can be, there is a general consensus that Snyder is an abjectly awful owner for whom nobody would feel bad if the door did indeed hit him on the way out.

What there is no general consensus on, however, are the etymological issues afflicting the Washington football franchise, which has gone through a number of name changes in recent years as it sought to shed accusations of "racism."

After years of bullying and complaints that the "Redskins" moniker and logo were offensive, Snyder and the team eventually relented and opted to ditch name the team had been using since its inception in 1937. (Technically, the team's roots trace back to the Boston Braves, founded in 1932.)

As it first switched to the genuinely awful "Football Team" placeholder name in July 2020 before shifting to "Commanders" in 2022, the rebrand could generously be described as tumultuous.

While all that dust appears to have since settled, however, things do not appear quite nearly as cut and dry after a Thursday report from The Washington Post revealed that, 15 months after the fact, the Commanders name is technically still not trademarked.

On May 18, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office notified the Commanders that their trademark was being denied due to "a likelihood of confusion," the Post reported.

The USPTO cited several reasons for its ruling, including possible confusion with the annual Commanders' Classic college football game between Army and Air Force as well as several other trademarks that utilize "Commanders," "Washington" or both terms.

"It also cited the Washington Space Commanders and Washington Wolf Commanders, trademarks owned by Martin McCaulay, 64, who has purchased numerous marks of fictional sports teams over the past decade," the Post reported.

Given the lukewarm reception of the "Commanders" moniker by the D.C. football community, it's little surprise that Washington fans online have been clamoring for yet another rebrand.

Here's a Twitter poll from late March showing a landslide win in favor of changing the Commanders name:

To the chagrin of those fans, however, the little hurdle presented by the USPTO is being described as just that by the Commanders -- a formality rather than a chance for another redesign.

“We do not believe that any trademark registrations that were obtained by squatters who attempted to capitalize on the Club’s name change should stand in the way of our registrations,” a Commanders representative said in a statement to the Post.

Trademark attorney Josh Gerben told the outlet, "The idea is to protect consumers from being confused as to who’s offering them goods and services. Would the average football consumer think that the Washington Commanders is somehow related to the Commanders’ Classic game at the college level? I think that’s a huge stretch, and I think that that would be the crux of their argument to the USPTO."

The Commanders will have three months to appeal the USPTO ruling.

Regardless of what the team name is next season, the franchise has its work cut out for it. The team has not made consecutive playoff appearances since George H.W. Bush was president.

Worse yet, regardless of what they ultimately go by, the Commanders' roster is severely lacking in talent.

While the team's defense is solid (it finished last year as the third-best defense in terms of yards allowed per game and could get better after the team used its first-round pick on Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes), its offense is downright, no pun intended, offensive.

The Commanders averaged a paltry 18.9 points per game last year, firmly putting the team in the bottom third of the league alongside perennial NFL bottom feeders such as the Houston Texans and New York Jets.

But whereas the Texans and Jets both found new quarterbacks this offseason, the Commanders appear content running out a platoon of mid-tier quarterbacks "highlighted" by NFL neophyte Sam Howell and journeyman Jacoby Brissett.

Given that the Commanders' NFC East rivals (the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants) have all won at least one Super Bowl since Washington last did so, you'd think the team would be exhausting all of its manpower to rectify that.

Instead, the franchise appears engaged in more legal gridlock.

If that's not a microcosm of the issues afflicting the Washington Commanders, nothing is.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Written by: Bryan Chai, The Western Journal



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