The name debate: Stick with Commanders, at least for now

It hasn't taken long for the rebranding debate to resurface after the Commanders fell under new ownership.

Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After Magic Johnson said nothing was off the table regarding a name change, moving forward with another Washington Commanders rebrand is a hot topic for discussion.

I do not like the name Washington Commanders.

It is entirely based on aesthetic considerations. It is too long. One or two-syllable names are better. It is harsh sounding. Its evocation of Washington as the seat of military power may mean something, but typically, the top brass in any line of work is not the most beloved. They are more often than not scoffed at. There’s a reason why the Harlem Globetrotters’ comic foil was the Washington Generals.

If we are going military, I would have much-preferred something honoring the dog faces or leathernecks. Maybe Phantoms (from World War II) or Ghosts, which had many incarnations in US military history.

Finally, there’s the issue of abbreviation. Three-syllable names are usually abbreviated into something more bite-sized. The options for Commanders – Comms, Manders, or, God-forbid, Commies – all strike me as … well, they all pretty much suck.

Josh Harris should stick with the Commanders name

And yet, with all those objections, if put to a vote, I would support keeping the name as is. That’s because it is simply time to move on and, to me, at least, this name, or any name, simply doesn’t matter very much.

Please forgive me if that somehow tramples on your own sacred memories of the long-standing nickname the Commanders once had. Site policy prevents me from saying it, and other than creating some awkward sentences, I have no problem with that.

I’m 61 years old and I grew up with that name too. I loved it. I had jerseys and helmets and pennants. I dressed up in the uniform for Halloween. We all did.

But it’s just a name. And given time and success, a new name will become equally beloved.

If Josh Harris et. al. believe that jettisoning Commanders will be a positive step toward washing away the bad smell left by the previous owner’s regime (now - there’s a name I never intend to type again with no qualms whatsoever), so be it. I wouldn’t really argue with his logic. And since I’ve already said that I dislike the current name, I could be won over rather easily.

I just think such a move would be re-hashing past arguments and might actually slow down that fresh start rather than encourage it. I don’t think the ends justify the means in this case.

But what I worry really about is that the announcement of a name change will rekindle the debate over the previous name. There are already some prominent voices calling for the name to be restored. Speaking as someone who still allows that name to slip into my conversation on a fairly regular basis, I say that would be a very bad thing for this fanbase.

I understand some fans will never accept there was justification for changing the previous nickname. They argue – correctly, I believe – that the name was never intended to cause offense, and that it generally had positive associations in the current context. But I’m sorry – if a name causes offense and pain to a wide-ranging group – not an individual or two – but to a large ethnic, racial, or religious group, then that name should not be celebrated, regardless of the intentions of those who currently use it.

I believe that most fans – even the long-timers like me who had to be convinced that this name actually had meaning beyond the limited scope of my own personal experience – have come to accept the need for a change. Not everyone, certainly. But most.

And I have this uneasy feeling that re-opening the name game for the third time in five years is going to re-open a debate that most of us thought was settled. It’s going to lead to name-calling and vitriol. It’s going to lead fans of the same team to begin yelling at each other anew over a name.

I may not like the name Commanders. But that is all it is. A name.

I’ll like it a lot more if new ownership builds a quality stadium and invests in practice facilities. If new ownership puts a solid hierarchy in place staffed by experienced football experts and then allows that staff to operate unimpeded. I’ll grow to like the name Commanders if the team wins on the field and behaves with dignity and class off of it.

Quite frankly, as long as they don’t take a step backward, I care almost nothing about whatever name they have.