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Editorial: A name change can't cover the stench in Washington

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The Redskins have steadily lost popularity among Washingtonians during Dan Snyder’s 20 tumultuous years as owner.

So, it’s “Commanders.”

The Washington football team did its best Wednesday morning on “The Today Show” to put a good face on the name change.

Team President Jason Wright, quarterback legend Doug Williams, and current team captain Jonathan Allen appeared alongside “Today Show” host Craig Melvin for the unveiling.

Asked how they felt about the new name, Commanders, Williams said he’s “going to hug [it].” Allen said, “I absolutely love it. I feel like it embodies not only what the players represent, but what the community and the DMV represent.”

He then put the spotlight on the future. “We’re going to support it. We’re going to go forward.”

Let’s hope they do.

The Washington football team’s former moniker, the Redskins, was marred by controversy from the beginning.

Owner George Preston Marshall adopted the name in 1933, when the team was in Boston and playing as the Braves, to distinguish it from the baseball team of the same name.

Marshall was accused even then, however, of adopting the name because Coach Lone Star Dietz and several players were of Native American descent.

Over the years, there have been protests, polls, focus groups, lawsuits and trademark battles about the name. Team owner Daniel Snyder stood by Redskins through it all—never more so than in 2013, when Snyder declared forcefully he would “NEVER” change the name.

So much for never.

When Melvin asked Wright to comment on the change, he talked about how it coincides with the “very rapid, very real and irreversible change in the organization.”

“When ownership is fully committed to diversity, when they’re really all in, change can happen very rapidly.”

He then notes that he’s hired the most diverse leadership team in the league.

How committed Snyder is to change, however, will be put to the test Thursday on Capitol Hill. The Committee on Oversight and Reform is holding a roundtable to discuss issues around the toxic work environment at the now-Commanders’ executive offices.

Concerns about an abusive work culture under Dan Snyder have dogged the organization since he bought the team in 1999.

The most notable public flash points have been around direct allegations of sexual misconduct brought by individual employees against Snyder and others, and the 2018 resignation of former executive Dennis Greene, who, according to the Daily Beast, “reportedly sold access to a topless cheerleader photo shoot to wealthy patrons as part of a suite package.”

In 2020, the team hired attorney Beth Wilkinson to investigate the workplace culture.

Her investigation was promptly handed over to the NFL, which slapped Snyder on the wrist, then did what it has done with other controversies that could embarrass the league. It buried the investigation. No public report. No public disclosure of documents.

It looks like a page from the league’s playbook when it was confronted with the concussion scandal. Deny, suppress information and repeat.

It seems clear, however, that the NFL could be covering up an explosive set of findings.

Several emails from the investigation between former team president Bruce Allen and former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden were leaked in October 2021.

They contained disparaging language that led to the Raiders releasing Gruden. What else is lurking in the stash of 650,000 emails the NFL is sitting on? That’s anyone’s guess.

So what does all this mean?

It means that no matter how diverse an the Commanders’ leadership group may be, or how committed it is to changing a toxic culture, if Daniel Snyder is still sitting in the owner’s box this fall, there will be reason to believe nothing has really changed.

It also means that as long as the NFL remains in charge of the records that could resolve once and for all how bad things are in the Commander’s executive offices, Wright and his team will be under immense pressure to “protect the shield,” as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is fond of saying.

If things are ever to get better in Washington, the NFL needs to take command.

It will take more than a name change to fix what is wrong in Washington.

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