There is a point in any PR crisis when you can still turn the story around and come out ahead.
For the Washington NFL team and their battle with public opinion to change their team name due to the offensive origin of the term, that moment has passed.
Please note, while I do have an opinion here, I’m not advocating one way or the other. I’m just declaring this renaming situation a total PR loss – no matter what they end up doing.
With members of Congress, the Attorney General – and even the President! – lining up in opposition to the name, the clock is ticking on the inevitable change. Even top media members are predicting a new name sooner than later.
And when that happens, and they become the Washington Warriors or something like that, it will be done kicking and screaming. What fans will want to support an organization that is being forced to make a change that they resisted for so long?
What if the team came out and made the following statement: “The Washington Redskins have a rich history of football excellence and deep community ties. Thousands of players have proudly worn the uniform and legions of fans display the logo on apparel, bumper stickers, mugs, and so many other places. This legacy was built on a name intended to be an honor, but it is not interpreted as such by the people the name was meant to be a tribute towards. While we are forever proud of where we came from, it’s time for us to create the next chapter of championship NFL football in the nation’s capital as the Washington Warriors. We will switch our primary logo to the burgundy and gold spear, that speaks to our past, but is pointed towards our future.”
If that statement was made today, it would be seen as an insincere way to alleviate the pressure.
If that statement was made even a year ago, they would win awards for inclusion and claim accolades as a wonderful organization. Their fans would respect their reasoning and would than have a reason to buy even more new gear.
The name will change, that’s a given at this point. Just a matter of time.
But when it ultimately does change, think about what it could have been: a major PR win.