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Washington Football Washington Football Team defensive end James Smith-Williams. — Washington Post Photo/John McDonnell

WASHINGTON - A year and a half after retiring its old name and promising a new one, the Washington Football Team will soon reveal its identity. In a lengthy video published Tuesday morning, Washington announced that it will unveil its name and logo Feb. 2.

The pending announcement will finalize a lengthy rebranding that began in July 2020, amid mounting pressure from team sponsors, local officials, and Native American activists and advocacy groups who had urged the NFL the force a change. The team retired its old name and adopted Washington Football Team in the interim, as it navigated the legal hurdles and marketing challenges that come with overhauling an 87-year-old brand.

That rebrand has stretched to nearly every facet of the organization, including the names of streets leading into headquarters in Ashburn, Va., and its stadium in Landover, Md., and has not only posed a shift in aesthetic, but a complete 180 in philosophy. Team owner Daniel Snyder, who grew up a fan before purchasing the team in 1999, had fought vehemently against calls to change the name, insisting it honored the heritage of Native Americans. In a 2013 interview, he vowed: "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER - you can use caps."

When the team relented, it didn't provide a timetable for revealing the name. It wasn't until this past summer when team president Jason Wright announced that its more permanent identity would be finalized in early 2022, after it whittled a collection of some 40,000 fan submissions and parsed through multiple focus groups to create a shortlist of options.

Wright described the team's rebranding as "a reintroduction to the fan base" and "a catalyst" for its bigger projects, such as building a new stadium and expanding its business to include multiple non-football entities, much like the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys have done.

"Also implicit in that is the expansion of us from a sports franchise into a media and entertainment company," Wright told The Washington Post last summer. "It's our vision, and this is part of what I sold Dan and Tanya [Snyder] on in my interview process: In the next decade, we should have other business lines, that are not football-related, that are at the scale of our local football business."

Over the past 18 months, he and the team have remained tight-lipped about its plans for its name and logo, offering only minimal details through team-promoted videos or articles. Wright vowed two things would stay - Washington's signature burgundy and gold colors - but later ruled out "Warriors" and any other nickname linked to Native American imagery.

"We recognize that not everyone is in favor of this change," he wrote in an article for the team's website. "And even the Native American community offers a range of opinions about both our past and path forward. But in these moments, it is important to prioritize the views of those who have been hurt by our historical use of Native American language, iconography and imagery."

On Tuesday, Wright ruled out two more options: RedWolves and Wolves.

"The prospect of years of litigation wasn't something that we wanted you, our fans, to have to bear as you begin to embrace a new brand," he wrote, citing potential trademark issues.

The team's promotional video about the name announcement spanned more than seven minutes and attempted to wed the old with the new. Multiple team executives and alumni, including senior adviser Doug Williams, general manager Martin Mayhew and former coach Joe Gibbs, were interviewed, and highlights of past Washington teams were interspersed with clips of current players. The video even included snippets of the team's new jerseys and helmets, described, of course, by former players.

"You just got the number and the uniform, stripes around the shoulders and that's it," Williams said. "That's gonna be a good-looking uniform."

The team announced last August that it had pared its lengthy list of options to three contenders, setting off a months-long guessing game among fans. By September, according to its newest video, the creation process was underway, all while fans engaged in a months-long guessing game about their team's identity.

On Feb. 2, the game will end and the next era will begin in Washington.

The Washington Post

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