The Legends Football League — the current name for what was once the Lingerie Football League — announced this week there would be an expansion franchise in the D.C. area, beginning with the 2015 season. The team will be called the Washington Warriorettes. The location for its home games, and its head coach, will be announced later.
Also, the news release took a shot at the Redskins name. “LFL BEATS WASHINGTON REDSKINS TO NEW NAME,” was the headline. An alternate headline could have been, “Organization whose product involves scantily-clad women playing football finds surefire way to attract mainstream media coverage.”
The Warriorettes were originally slated to be named the ‘Redskinettes’, however following the controversy around the name ‘Redskins’ as well as the new information coming to surface with the 81-year old Associated Press article, the LFL has chosen to honor the wishes of many American Indians to not further promote the word ‘Redskin’ through sports.
“As an avid thirty-five year Washington Redskins fan, I understand that we as fans place the name Redskins in high-regard. However, when the name offends as many American Indians as it has, I believe it is the responsibility of ownership to act. We chose an empowering name like the Washington Warriorettes as to not offend such an important faction of people that were the origination of this great country”, said Mitchell Mortaza, Chairman of Washington Warriorettes.
Now, there are a number of amazing things about those two paragraphs, including the claim that the LFL was considering the name “Redskinettes,” a phrase that was trademarked by the Redskins in 1990. I mean, no, the Warriorettes were not originally slated to be named the Redskinettes. You might as well claim they were originally slated to be named the Washington Nationals. Or Nationalettes.
Mortaza — the founder and chairman of the league — acknowledged in a phone interview that the new team “obviously” could not have been called the “Redskinettes,” news release notwithstanding. But he said officials were considering names that more explicitly referred to Washington’s NFL team than does Warriorettes.
And while he acknowledged that this was a pretty swell way to get media coverage, he insisted his feelings about the issue are genuine.
“Look, this is a hot topic nationally,” he said, when I asked if this was all a gimmick. “That being said, we understand the symbolic value of going to the forefront of this. If the Redskins won’t stand up and do it, we’ll stand up and say ‘This is wrong, this is why it’s wrong, and this is what we’re going to do about it.’ ”
What they’re going to do, of course, is name their team the “Warriorettes.” Does the name “Warriorettes” empower female athletes? That’s for someone else to decide. George Will, maybe.
Mortaza said plans for a D.C. franchise have been in the works for 12 to 14 months; officials originally considered launching the D.C. franchise for the 2014 season, which began in April, but they “didn’t have the ideal building lease scenario.” He said they are one to two weeks from announcing the team’s home venue, which will be in Northern Virginia. He also said a “high-profile former Redskin” has committed to coach the team.
(Gary Clark and Ravin Caldwell have reportedly been involved with the league as coaches in Baltimore, and Mark Rypien — whose daughter Angela is among the league’s highest-profile players — has been a consultant to the Seattle Mist, according to Mortaza.)
Mortaza grew up in Fairfax County, attending Centreville High and George Mason University. In our phone conversation, he repeated the news release line about being a fan of the team for more than 35 years, and he also mentioned his Redskins fandom when Clark joined the league. He told me he wanted a Washington presence in his league because he “knows how devoted a fanbase the Redskins have, and what football means to the area.”
So why would he antagonize that fanbase in a news announcement?
“Look, as Redskins fans we understand Redskins is empowering when we refer to it,” he said. “But as an executive — someone on the other side of the table — you have to step away and say, ‘Am I doing something that hurts people?’ And it is hurtful to a certain faction of Native Americans. Obviously some don’t mind it, but as long as you have some that consider it a racist term, you’ve got to respect that. Hopefully all these little things happening will push the Redskins to consider that.”
The release said the Warriorettes will be in the league’s USA Eastern Conference, along with the Baltimore Charm, Toledo Crush, Jacksonville Breeze, Omaha Heart and Atlanta Steam. All the league’s teams are owned and operated by the LFL.
Will I now feel compelled to take note of every press release that attempts to generate attention by referring to the Redskins name? No decision had been made at press time.