Web contest highlights 1,887 possible new logos for Washington’s pro football team

Robert McCartney
Columnist October 12, 2013

Now that President Obama, no less, has joined the crowd urging Dan Snyder to think about changing the name of Washington’s professional football team, it’s time to start visualizing how a new name and logo would look on helmets, jerseys and pajamas.

Owner Snyder wrote a two-page letter to us fans last week after the president’s comments. He defended the team’s name on grounds that it stands for “strength, courage, pride and respect.”

Robert McCartney’s column on local issues appears Thursdays and Sundays in The Post’s Metro section. View Archive

But plenty of alternatives exist to exemplify those same good traits — and without offending a sizable number of American Indians and their supporters.

By happy coincidence, a San Francisco design company has lent a hand by organizing a Web-based contest to draw a new logo for the team.

The firm, 99designs, also had the good sense to ask yours truly to be one of the judges. This proved to be an easy task, because we simply went with the design that garnered the most support in online voting among eight finalists.

Have a look, Mr. Snyder. Just rename the team the “Washington Warriors” and you’ve got a logo ready to go.

Designed by a Serbian freelance artist, it features the Pentagon to honor the home of the U.S. military and the Washington Monument to honor, well, you know.

It’s clean and muscular. It preserves our team’s hallowed colors of burgundy and gold.

And nobody will have to keep defending a racial slur (see the dictionary).

“I was trying to create a simple logo, which will symbolize American warriors, power and history,” said designer Milan Milosevic of Zrenjanin. “For me, this is a making of history, and something I had to participate in.”

Dislike that one? There are options aplenty. The topic aroused so much interest that the competition drew 1,887 entries from 347 designers in a week.

My favorite was the second-place finisher, the “Washington Redtails,” which won honorable mention.

“Red Tails” was a nickname for units of the Tuskegee Airmen, the African American pilots who won acclaim for heroics in the air while battling racial prejudice within the U.S. military during World War II.

The logo features a red-tailed warplane labeled “DC.” It’s a distinctive design and an inspired idea for the name.

(Historical bonus: Honoring black aviators would surely rile the ghost of the team’s notoriously racist, pro-segregation past owner, George Preston Marshall.)

“It retains the feel of the name. You can still sing your ‘Hail to the Redtails,’ ” said Mark Crosby, the artist. A high school cross-country coach in Madison, Wis., Crosby said he has been “dabbling in design since middle school.”

Milosevic and Crosby each won $500, plus bragging rights, from the design firm.

The contest, in which the team played no role, suffered from one serious limitation. It asked designers to restrict themselves to three names, one proposed by each of the judges from outside 99designs.

The name I offered was Warriors, partly because it won in a Twitter-based contest that The Washington Post held in January. The judges’ other two choices were Griffins and Renegades.

Technically, Redtails should not have been nominated. But it was so well-liked that it came in second anyway.

The rule left out of the mix many other possible names that have attracted support, such as Senators, Americans, Generals, Hogs, Pigskins and Redhawks.

(Note to readers: Please refrain from e-mailing me purportedly cute suggestions such as Lobbyists, Gridlock and Blowhards. I’ve heard them all. Ditto to you who suggest that we keep the current name but change the logo to a potato. That one has been stale for decades.)

Despite the constraint, the contest revealed the broad range of possibilities. For instance, many of the Warriors nominations featured an iconic image of an American soldier, in the familiar GI combat helmet.

That certainly seems like an appropriate subject to honor. It reminds me of my late father, a combat infantryman wounded in Germany in 1945, and his older brother, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Why don’t our professional sports teams commemorate those heroes? Instead, we cling to idealized images that needlessly exasperate many of our nation’s original inhabitants.

Or consider the idea to rename the team the Griffins, suggested by fellow judge David Plotz, editor of Slate. That’s a clever suggestion, and not just because it borrows the surname of our starting quarterback.

For those who have forgotten their mythology, a griffin has the head of an eagle and the body of a lion. What an excellent combination for a football team.

See the possibilities, Mr. Snyder? There are plenty of ways to preserve our team’s traditions with a name that everyone can support.

For previous Robert McCartney columns, go to washingtonpost.com/mccartney.

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