A Washington Football Renaissance?

All across the country, fans exclaim sighs of defeat after another loss for the Washington Football Team, this time against the Cleveland Browns. With a 1-5 record so far this season, this team, as usual, is off to a rocky start. The Washington Football Team has slowly gained a reputation for being a generally losing team over the past couple of decades. To add to this less-than-favorable notoriety, the Washington Post released a shocking report that caused many fans to question their favorite team. This article included numerous allegations by Washington cheerleaders of sexual harassment. Even the decision that the team will change their controversial name from “Redskins” to “Washington Football Team” wasn’t able to get rid of the bad taste in many fans’ mouths.

Graph showing the win percentage of the Washington Football Team through 2000 and 2020 with each coach. (Graph by Thomas Daniels)

For the past twenty years, the Washington Football Team has been consistent in one thing: its poor performances. When new coach Ron Rivera was hired in January, many people had become excited because, while past coaches have tried and failed to change the team’s losing culture to a winning culture, Rivera had already done this once with the Carolina Panthers. 

Many fans are hopeful, like seven-year-fan Jack Gallagher, junior, who said, “He’s the right move. He believes in the team and that is what fans need to see.” Gallagher also said that Rivera’s strategies of creating good habits and establishing principles will get the team back on track. 

However, some are still apprehensive, like Woodson’s football coach Ramine Dash, a lifelong NFL fan with a wide knowledge of the sport. “At the end [Rivera] is just a figurehead; Snyder is in control,” Dash said. Daniel Snyder, the owner of the team, is widely viewed as one of the worst owners in the NFL. 

According to longtime fan Daniel Sitrin, junior, “Snyder is a terrible leader who is responsible for the toxic culture.” He also said “they need to draft well and buy into Rivera’s system. Players respect what he’s trying to do, so let him take the reins.” 

Coach Dash further criticized the ownership by saying, “The owners are playing fantasy football. They’re building teams to make money but won’t let the coach dictate.”

This is not the only reason the Washington Football Team leadership has come under fire. On July, 17 Washington cheerleaders alleged sexual harassment by employees as reported by the Washington Post. Many of them blamed Snyder for helping these acts continue by understaffing the human resources department and creating a toxic environment that, in part, led some to abuse these women. One woman even said that Snyder suggested inappropriate behavior to her. 

Washington QB Kyle Allen getting hit on an attempted 2-point conversion to win the game against the Giants. (Photo courtesy of John Minchillo AP)

“Sadly it was believable,” Coach Dash said. “The team has always been surrounded by rumors and the executives are not the best, including Snyder.” 

When Gallagher heard the report, his initial reaction was, “There needs to be more changes with Snyder.” He was also disappointed with the staff and upper management, and it further pushed him to want a change in leadership which can be done under a little-known bylaw. This clause gives the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell the power to order an owner to sell the team if they are “guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the league or professional football.”

Another issue the Washington Football Team faced was the controversy of its name. People have been protesting against it for years; however, it was not until a few months ago when the Black Lives Matter protests brought racism to the forefront of everyone’s mind, that Snyder finally got rid of their controversial name. 

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The name “Redskins” is seen as offensive to Native Americans, which is why the team’s name has been temporarily changed to the “Washington Football Team.” The name many fans like is “The Redtails,” but others say the temporary name is growing on them. However, most fans agree this is only the first step in many to combat this team’s toxic culture. 

Despite these controversies, not all hope is lost. Around the time the allegations were first revealed, many top executives were fired and were replaced with a more diverse staff. Team president Bruce Allen was fired and replaced with Jason Wright, making him the first Black president of an NFL team. The Chief Content Officer and voice of the Washington Football Team Larry Michaels retired amid sexual harassment allegations, and recently hired Senior Vice President of Media and Content Julie Donaldson replaced him with Bram Weinstein. 

These adjustments are already being met with praise. “I like the new staff. They have worked hard to put the team in a new light,” Gallagher said. These changes, along with Rivera’s new coaching making the team more united than ever before, show how this team is starting a new chapter. However, many believe in order for the Washington Football Team to really start fresh so they can work to be better both on and off the field, Snyder must give up his ownership.