The clock is ticking on a Washington Redskins name change, but the countdown will be measured in years — if not a decade. Still, owner Dan Snyder needs an exit strategy.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s ruling on Wednesday to cancel six Redskins trademarks won’t change anything soon. The team will appeal the decision and continue to use the Redskins name while a very long legal process plays out. In the meantime, no bootlegging jerseys.
Snyder infamously pledged to “never” change the name, which galvanized the opposition. Never is a long time, and Snyder must now look for a face-saving alternative in case the courts further deny the trademark.
And his out comes by way of a new stadium.
Washington is a U.S. finalist for the 2024 Olympics bid and possible replacement host for the 2022 World Cup. Both are long shots to happen, but either would merit a domed stadium that could later be used for the Redskins. The team would return to the city — sharing the stadium’s cost — and everyone would be happy.
And it would be the perfect time to change the name.
The RFK site is the only feasible place left inside the District for a stadium, since three other locations considered in 1997 have been developed. The price to return would be a new name.
The land is controlled by the U.S. Department of the Interior. And just as in 1962, when federal pressure forced the team to hire black players in order to use RFK, the Redskins would be pressured to change their name to use the land.
The RFK site is small for a modern stadium, and neighboring citizen groups oppose a new venue, but both problems are resolvable. A second Metro stop would reduce parking needs and increase adjacent commercial development sought by residents.
The current FedEx Field deal ends after the 2026 season. It would be expensive to leave early, but feasible.
Snyder and fans love the team’s history, especially since the last Super Bowl title was 22 years ago. With no major corporations threatening to withhold advertising, there has been no real pressure to change the name. Even if the team loses the trademark and royalties, it’s still not a complete game changer.
If the courts uphold the team’s trademark, then Snyder will never change the name. Otherwise, his exit strategy should be to combine the next stadium deal with a new logo. The Washington Warriors, honoring the U.S. military, is a popular alternative.
The trademark ruling isn’t the final say; it’s just the beginning.