Washington’s announcement of its intention to engage in a “thorough review” of its name amounts to, as a practical matter, an announcement that the name will change. If/when (when) the name changes, what will it become?
The statement from coach Ron Rivera hints that the team will consider names that honor and support Native Americans and/or the military. And so the question becomes whether Native Americans want to be associated with the new team name.
It’s possible that groups like the National Congress of American Indians will welcome a new name that they believe truly honors Native Americans. It’s possible that, after years of dealing with a name that they viewed as anything but an honor and a franchise that refused to change it, they no longer want anything to do with the franchise.
There’s another factor to consider when it comes to a new name. Plenty of fans of the team surely will refuse to call it anything other than what they’ve been calling it for decades. If the next name continues to have a connection to Native Americans (perhaps even using the same logo and uniforms), it becomes easier for fans who refuse to acknowledge the new name to cling to the old one, wearing the gear and singing the song and ignoring the new name and using the old one.
So there’s an argument to be made that, in order to minimize the extent to which the old name lingers among fans, the new name should have have no direct or indirect connection to Native Americans.
Thus, the upcoming “thorough review” will be far less about the decision that already has been made and far more about the decision to come: What will the new name be?