When Washington’s NFL franchise decided to drop its longstanding nickname last year, it inserted a placeholder that was so bland and boring it didn’t seem real: Washington Football Team.
At first, it sounded laughable. It was like the marketing department worker in charge of coming up with a name forgot to do the assignment, and when confronted by the boss, the employee blurted out, “Ah, Washington … Football Team?”
Then, over the course of the 2020 season, it grew on me.
The team is surveying supporters in search of a new name. I’m neither a fan nor have I been asked, but if I was I’d strongly consider making the interim name, or something close to it, the permanent one.
The only objection is that when the Washington Football Team is abbreviated to WFT it looks too much like WTF which connotes something inappropriate for a family product — although perhaps reflective of the team’s recent fortunes.
So maybe Washington Football Club — WFC? It sounds cool (at least to me). It also tips a cap to European soccer while still stealing the name of the sport in a very American fashion.
In the fan surveys, each participant was shown a list of 10 possible names. Different people got different lists (this isn’t a straight democratic vote). Based on social media posts, the current list being considered includes:
First City Football Club (FCFC)
Washington DC Football Club (DCFC)
So apparently some variations of WFC, and even WFT, are in the running. The team is quick to note that these aren’t the potential names.
Per team president Jason Wright, they are using “focus groups, stakeholder interviews, large-scale surveys, and other qualitative and quantitative approaches to understand what fans want and what types of names resonate with our fans.”
As such, if a lot of people like a name that can be abbreviated, then perhaps they’ll go with an abbreviation. Ditto with an animal. Some are too painfully obvious — Presidents? Some make no sense as the United States freed itself from the Monarchs (unless we’re talking butterflies here). And when was the last time a Razorback was seen in D.C.?
Whatever. This is a multibillion dollar company trying to rebrand itself on the fly. It isn’t as easy as it looks. Washington has said it would like to have a new name by the start of the 2022 season, so at least there is no immediate rush.
European soccer tends to place the focus on the city represented, although abbreviations or nicknames can organically emerge. Football Club Barcelona is often just called Barcelona or Barca. Liverpool Football Club can be Liverpool, LFC or “The Reds” based on the dominant color of the kit.
In America, the tradition is to have a nickname, a mascot, all sorts of things. It’s hard to imagine, for example, the Lakers being known as the Los Angeles Basketball Club or the Red Sox the Boston Baseball Team. Certain nicknames conjure up their own aura — the Packers, the Yankees, the Cowboys … or even the Pack, the Yanks, the Boys.
Washington once had that as well. Times change though. Often for the better. So can names. And if nothing else, going with something different, even if it emerged from something rushed and forced, might not be so bad.
I am just one vote who wasn’t even asked to vote, but Washington Football Club, or WFC, doesn’t sound too bad to me.