In the aftermath of the decision by a federal judge to uphold the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s cancellation of the Washington name and logo, either FOX News tracked down or the team trotted out Joe Theismann to talk about the situation on TV.
The statement that has drawn the most attention came from Theismann’s attempt to compare the situation to the change in the gender of former U.S. Olympian Bruce Jenner.
“It brings up an interesting debate,” Theismann said in the clip posted by Deadspin. “Bruce Jenner versus Caitlyn Jenner. Bruce Jenner, they want to maybe change the medals from Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner because that’s who he is now — or she is now. So I think you will always be — I think there will be a time in history where whatever you were, you are. Whatever you will be going forward that is what you will become.”
It was a clumsy way to address a valid question: What happens to the accomplishments of the franchise for all the years that it played under a different name? While the knee-jerk response (with or without reference to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner) is that “whatever you were, you are,” the NFL previously has managed to wave a wand and transform the Cleveland Browns into the Baltimore Ravens, stripping the accomplishments from what was the Browns franchise, moving the Browns franchise to a new city with a new name, leaving the accomplishments in Cleveland for three years, and giving them to what essentially was (and some would say still is) an expansion team.
So it’s possible that, if/when the name changes, someone other than owner Daniel Snyder will decide that the new name will apply retroactively. (Hey, if the NFL can apply its new Personal Conduct Policy retroactively, it can apply a new Washington name retroactively, too.)
In a roundabout way, Theismann’s reference to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner has helped keep his substantive argument regarding the retention of the name from getting more attention. Which is good for Theismann, who contradicted himself in saying he’s never encountered a Native American who is offended by the name but then acknowledged that some tribes are offended by the use of Native American names and images by sports teams.
Theismann also dusted off the original argument in favor of keeping the name, pointing out that more than 60 high schools still use the name. He didn’t mention that the number has been dropping through local fights that always entail strong feelings and high emotions, but that systematically have seen communities reject the example maintained by the team at the top of the sport.
The segment also included the perfunctory outrage over government not devoting time and resources to more important matters like defending our country. By the way, the Confederate flag is being taken down at the South Carolina state capitol today.