What’s in a name? Sny­der about to find out

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By JIM LITKE

Try to think of a more de­serv­ing guy in all of sports than Dan Sny­der to get his name-change plans caught in a vise. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

In the mean­time, let’s all sa­vor this quote from the owner of the Washington NFL fran­chise for­merly-known-as­the … (which was pre­cisely the prob­lem) the last time Na­tive Amer­i­can ad­vo­cates lob­bied for a name change:

“We’ll never change the name,” Sny­der told USA Today in 2013. “It’s that sim­ple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

Turns out six years later, Sny­der HAD to be­cause the spon­sors who line his pock­ets could squeeze him in a way that the Na­tive Amer­i­cans ap­peal­ing to his sense of de­cency for nearly two decades never could. Gone for good are the po­lar­iz­ing name, mas­cot, logo, fight song, sig­nage, etc. — good rid­dance — and then there’s this in­trigu­ing ex­tra bit of con­so­la­tion: Sny­der’s name-chang­ing headaches might be far from over.

The team’s state­ment on of­fi­cially re­tir­ing the Red­skins name didn’t in­clude a re­place­ment be­cause, ac­cord­ing to a hand­ful of news out­lets, Sny­der’s pre­ferred choice (or choices) might spark a trade­mark fight. And it could be a doozy.

While Sny­der dithered and the in­ter­net buzzed with sug­ges­tions for Washington’s new name, a hand­ful of vi­sion­ar­ies rolled up their sleeves, fired up their key­boards and filed ap­pli­ca­tions with the U.S. Pa­tent and Trade­mark Of­fice for many of the most pop­u­lar ones. The ear­li­est adopter might be Philip Martin McCaulay, an au­thor and ac­tu­ary from Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia, who staked claim to sev­eral can­di­dates back in 2015 and now has reg­is­tered more than a dozen — in­clud­ing Amer­i­cans, War­riors, Fed­er­als, Red Tails and Red-Tailed Hawks, the lat­ter two an homage to the Tuskegee Air­men from World War II.

But McCaulay isn’t alone

any­more. In the last week or so, a hand­ful of oth­ers have tried to snatch Braves, War Hogs, Po­tomacs, Vet­er­ans and Mon­u­ments, among oth­ers. And while no one had at­tempted to reg­is­ter the Washington Pres­i­dents as of Sun­day, the ac­tual pres­i­dent in Washington in­sisted that any re­place­ment sig­naled a shame­ful re­treat.

“They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weak­ness,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted a week ago, in­clud­ing base­ball’s Cleve­land In­di­ans in the short di­a­tribe. “Two fa­bled sports fran­chises, look like they are go­ing to be chang­ing their names in or­der to be po­lit­i­cally cor­rect.”

It’s a safe bet Sny­der feels the same way, though for once he’s hold­ing his tongue. When Na­tive Amer­i­cans mounted a pres­sure cam­paign in 2013, Sny­der hired a bat­tery of PR ex­perts and cre­ated the Washington Red­skins Orig­i­nal Amer­i­cans Foun­da­tion to de­flect crit­i­cism. There was too much mo­men­tum to dodge the is­sue this time.

Sny­der’s next move is hard to pre­dict. But like some bil­lion­aires, he likes to file law­suits. He sued sports writer Dave McKenna and the Washington City Paper in 2011 for a lengthy, un­flat­ter­ing pro­file, per­haps be­cause print­ing his record (142-193-1 and 2-5 in the play­offs through last sea­son) would have been un­flat­ter­ing enough. Sny­der even sued one of his own sea­son ticket hold­ers who couldn’t pony up for seats dur­ing the last re­ces­sion.

Sny­der hasn’t asked for my ad­vice, but here it is any­way: Turn off the lights in your home of­fice, put a cold, damp towel across your fore­head and def­i­nitely do not call Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell for ad­vice; at a min­i­mum, don’t de­cide any­thing for at least a month (then sell the team; just kid­ding).

But peo­ple who’ve man­aged re­brand­ing cam­paigns for col­leges gen­er­ally fig­ure on an 18-to-24-month time­line. Sev­eral rec­om­mended keep­ing the tra­di­tional gold and bur­gundy col­ors and play­ing next sea­son known sim­ply as Washington Football, rather than rush into any­thing the or­ga­ni­za­tion might re­gret. A quick change can be jar­ring to fans, and ob­tain­ing the trade­mark for a new name, then re-de­sign­ing, li­cens­ing and get­ting ev­ery­thing from new uni­forms to T-shirts and one­sies into pro­duc­tion isn’t an overnight job.

If fur­ther proof was needed, the team’s Mon­day an­nounce­ment fea­tured the old let­ter­head, with the Red­skins name and logo promi­nently dis­played on top.

On top of that, longterm plan­ning was never Sny­der’s strong suit. Cur­rent seat warmer Ron Rivera is the ninth head coach he’s hired since buy­ing the team from Jack Kent Cooke’s es­tate back in 1999. Small won­der — Washington has burned through 21 start­ing quar­ter­backs over that same stretch.

So it should have come as no sur­prise to find out that Sny­der had no Plan B. But at least he won’t have to look far or wide to find some­body to blame. All Sny­der has to do is read the name on the sig­na­ture line of all those checks stam­ped­ing out the door in the com­ing months.

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