The 2014-15 NFL season is set to kick-off tonight when the Green Bay Packers take on the Seattle Seahawks. However, in Washington it seems like more attention is being paid to the Redskins’ ongoing name controversy than the impending season.
ESPN aired an episode of “Outside the Lines” this week about the debate over the Redskins’ name. The sports cable giant also released some interesting statistics to go along with the segment. ESPN found that 71 percent of Americans think the name should not be changed. Among NFL players, 58 percent agreed that the Redskins should be able to keep their name.
After looking at these statistics, you might think that the Redskins are in the clear. Only 29 percent of the public has a problem with the name. If 71 percent of voters approve of a politician, that’s a pretty good margin, but this isn’t politics; it’s branding. Brands need as many consumers as possible to hold a favorable opinion. Choosing a name is the most important marketing decision a brand makes. It sets the stage for the brand’s success or failure. There is only negative equity in a bad name.
In my opinion, the Redskins need to change their name, and change it soon. The negative publicity is mounting, and it’s showing no signs of waning. It seems like every week a new media outlet or personality is publicly announcing their refusal to call the Washington franchise by its nickname. Unfortunately for the Redskins, these opinion leaders strongly influence the general public. If they call for the franchise to change its name, more and more consumers are bound to follow.
Branding isn’t about what’s fair and what’s unfair; it’s about pleasing consumers. Regardless of if the name is offensive or not, it needs to be canned. The Redskins’ name is associated with mostly negativity and controversy. It might be expensive to rebrand, but a new name would give the team a fresh start. They can focus on football and not off-field drama. The Washington football team will always be the Washington football team, regardless of its nickname. It might take a few years for fans to warm up to the new name, but true fans support their team no matter what they’re called.