At a tailgate party during the Middleburg spring races, a woman walked up and introduced herself, wondering if I was the same reporter who used to cover the National Football League and the local pro football team for The Washington Post.
The answer was yes, at which point, long-time Washingtonian Jordan Wright told me she was the granddaughter of George Preston Marshall, the original owner of the Washington (pardon the derogatory expression) Redskins when he moved the team here from Boston back in 1937.
We had a perfectly pleasant chat, recalling that many of the same people who used to work for Marshall were still on the job for the team when I covered it in the 1970s. Finally, though, I couldn’t help myself. I had to ask. What about this whole team name controversy, I wondered, fully expecting she’d be soundly in favor of the status quo.
“They need to change the name,” she said. “In this day and age, it’s just not right.”
After reading an earnest letter written recently by Bruce Allen, general manager of Washington’s NFL franchise, in response to 50 United States senators urging current team owner Daniel Snyder to change the name, I thought about Jordan Wright’s comment, and also contemplated all the wonderful benefits a name change would produce for Snyder and the entire organization.
Just think about all the fabulous fallout that could benefit Washington’s favorite football team and its beleaguered owner if he finally reversed his field.
Surely he’d be praised by President Obama, all those senators and the entire Congress, a vast majority of the media, the D.C. City Council and virtually every major Native American organization in the country for doing the right and honorable thing. A Nobel Peace Prize might not quite be in order, but surely the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Organization of Women and many others would invite him to accept their humanitarian of the year awards, both locally and nationally.
A man some have said is among the worst owners in all of professional sports could also go a long way toward improving his own public image. Perhaps Snyder might even earn consideration as Sports Illustrated’s 2014 Sportsman of the Year for such a magnanimous and conscience-driven decision to finally right what many—including George Preston Marshall’s granddaughter for goodness sake—believe is a terrible wrong.
Priests, ministers, rabbis and imams would praise him from pulpits coast to coast.
The NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, would single him out at next spring’s NFL owners meetings. He’d laud Snyder’s courage in the face of the probable wrath of some long-time Washington fans by taking a risky leap of faith in believing that the vast majority of football followers would applaud his historic move.
Surely Snyder’s fellow owners would rise as one to offer a spirited standing ovation during their opening session, something he’s probably never experienced since the day he bought the team in 1999. Maybe, just maybe, they’d even reward him with the 2019 Super Bowl to be played at FedEx Field, as he’s always dreamed about.
It also goes without saying that Snyder, always a bottom-line kind of guy, would reap a huge financial windfall with a name change. Just think about all those new, re-branded football jerseys, T-shirts, caps and countless other logo-centric paraphernalia that would fly off the shelves as followers of Washington’s team showed their allegiance with their credit cards, the better to wear the official new name proudly.
There might be ramifications on the field as well for a team that has only been to the playoffs four times in Snyder’s often-cited reign of error, never advancing to a conference title game or Super Bowl.
After all, wasn’t it Bruce Allen’s own father, late Hall of Famer George Allen, who constantly moaned about “distractions” affecting his team when he served as Washington’s head coach from 1971 through the 1977 season?
Wouldn’t a name change immediately eliminate that always touchy question current players and coaches are constantly being asked by the media and many fans any time the controversy bubbles up? Change the name and clearly erase a huge distraction.
This team is now starting yet another new era, with yet another new head coach in charge, a luminous young quarterback with seemingly unlimited potential apparently healthy again and an improved roster that may very well contend for a playoff spot in what is perceived as one of the league’s weakest divisions.
Wouldn’t a name change also produce some wonderful new karma around that locker room, add even more positive thinking to a team looking for a fresh start heading into the 2014 season?
And wouldn’t George Preston Marshall’s granddaughter be delighted as well?