Column: Even in absence, Snyder speaks volumes

Washington owner Dan Snyder walks onto the field before an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Landover, Md. The Eagles won, 24-0. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The improbable, if not impossible, has happened: Washington’s NFL team is trading in its 87-year-old racist moniker for a shiny, new name. But the man who is supposed to be at the forefront of this monumental change is conspicuously absent.

The Monday announcement, in addition to using the team name seven times despite all but admitting the name is problematic, lacked any quotes from team owner Dan Snyder.

Even by his own low standards, Snyder has looked terrible throughout the most pivotal time in the franchise’s history.

Look closely at that statement: Beyond the gratuitous use of the team name, the release lists sponsors atop the list of those the team wants to keep apprised of its thinking, which reinforces the obvious notion that Snyder is only changing the name to stop his corporate sponsors from leaving in droves.

And if it’s not bad enough that financial considerations cornered him into obvious decisions such as firing Bruce Allen and changing the team name, Snyder has reportedly been out of the country during the vast majority of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social unrest stemming from George Floyd’s death, leaving the franchise in a “chaotic” state.

For years, Washington fans have begged for Snyder to get out of the way, but the one time the franchise needs him to be a good steward is the exact time he chooses to be MIA. Typical.

Snyder could have changed the narrative of his ownership by demonstrating an ability to lead during unprecedented times. All the years of dysfunction, the questionable business practices and awkward public showings would be in mothballs alongside the current name of the franchise.

Instead, Snyder has likely added another chapter to the encyclopedic volumes of missteps that leave Washington’s franchise reeling.

Ron Rivera, who has yet to preside over a single practice as the team’s head coach, is at the forefront of a name change that should have predated his arrival — and at a time when he’s tasked with the challenge of getting a 3-13 team ready to play amid a pandemic. Better coaches in better circumstances shouldn’t be asked to also serve as a de facto team president in tumultuous times.

And wouldn’t it be vintage Snyder if, from afar, he botches the new name?

The plan is to keep the team colors and do away with Native American imagery, yet “Warriors” is said to be the leading candidate, even though at least one Native American leader said it wouldn’t be enough of a departure from the problematic theme.

Can’t you just see Snyder signing off on a name that leaves all parties involved feeling cheated?

Parenthetically, as several options are gaining traction, Federals is growing on me. I know it directly ties to the failed USFL team, but a slight color change to burgundy and navy blue would fall in line with the other major pro sports teams in D.C. and give the team the potential for a catchy fight song like, “Here Come the Feds.”

As I said before, the new name needs to fit Washington’s personality and serve as a unifying force, not just for the city, but for a country in reckoning.

The NFL franchise located in the nation’s capital making the most of this opportunity at this time could be as poetic and heartwarming as a team called the Patriots winning Super Bowl XXXVI in unlikely fashion after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

So, whether it’s NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or Snyder’s confidantes, an appeal needs to be made to the team’s owner: Be present for this name change, whether you believe in it or not. History is full of men who did the right thing for the wrong reasons. Add your name to the list, if it has to be that way.

Seek the council of these Native American leaders you’ve fought in court for decades, get their blessing on the new name and have them present when you unveil it. Don’t just make them props, either; make amends for the cruel Original Americans Foundation hoax and demonstrate you understand the gravity of this moment for that people.

If Rivera or Doug Williams is leading the way, we know Snyder has punted on one of his most important tasks as team owner. And like a punt signals the end of a drive in football, it hopefully signals the imminent end of the Snyder era.

Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is WTOP's Senior Sports Content Producer, which includes duties as producer and host of the DC Sports Huddle, nightside sports anchor and sports columnist on

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