“I’m not opposed to it, but I’m not for it either,” Nate Scarlett, of Bowie, Maryland, told WTOP’s John Domen. That was the general reaction early Wednesday to the announcement of the name Washington Commanders.
That was the general reaction of fans gathered outside the Washington Commanders team store on Wednesday after the official announcement of the team’s new name — which came hours after it was leaked online.
“I’m not opposed to it, but I’m not for it either,” Nate Scarlett, of Bowie, Maryland, told WTOP’s John Domen.
He would have preferred Red Hogs, as many fans did, and called the new name “mediocre — pretty generic. Safe.”
He said Commanders would grow on him, as Washington Football Team did. “But winning solves everything.”
Sean Campbell, of Rockville, Maryland, felt the same: “The name is all right,” he said. “I can live with it.”
Bryce McGee, of Crofton, Maryland, pronounced the name “all right. It’s kind of boring.” He was surprised the name had leaked out — “I thought they would be a bit more secure” — although his mother, Shariff McGee, expected it to happen. “Everyone leaks in D.C.”
She said she preferred the original name, but was in line with her son to get merchandise, saying Bryce was a straight-A student, and thus could spend the time camping out.
“And it’s going to be the name the rest of my life,” McGee said.
Chris Mercado, of Olney, Maryland, who got to the store at 3 a.m., joined the consensus: “It wasn’t my first choice, but it’s grown on me since last night. … I think in a couple of years it’ll be completely normal.”
Like Mercado, Sam Murray, of Baltimore, pointed to “weird” NFL team names such as the Packers, Browns and Steelers, and said, “Commanders will fit right in.”
Carl Anderson, of Sykesville, Maryland, said he loved the new name, although he also said “I would have liked anything.”
He added, “I think it has a D.C. kind of swing to it. It’s kind of positive — no more protests, so that’s good.”
Jason Webb, of McLean, Virginia, called the new name “a monumental change,” pointing out the team’s long history and specifying, as one example, former quarterback Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. “That stuff means a lot to this fan base,” Webb said.
Of the Commanders, he said, “It’s gonna grow on me; I have to be honest. But what else do we have?”
He agreed that the team’s original name had to go, and now that it has, the team can move forward.
“It’s over. Most fans got the memorabilia at their house and everything, so you can celebrate the old name that way. But this is a new thing now.”
For the longtime Washington football announcer and former WTOP anchor Frank Herzog, the unveiling itself was more important than the specifics of the name.
He told WTOP that his first reaction to the news was “a sense of relief.”
“It’s the next positive step by the franchise to getting itself back together,” Herzog explained. Herzog pointed out that the Washington Football Team was 31st out of 32 teams in attendance last season, and the new name represented a new beginning.
“After all the disaster they’ve been through over two years, they went about this process the right way,” polling fans, players and former players, Herzog said.
“Some people may not like the name; some people do. It doesn’t make any difference. They’ve got the name; it’s done. And 20 years from now, no one will ever remember that there was a controversy about this. And so now they can turn to the next steps, and that’s building a better football team.”
Herzog took a shot at transitioning his trademark bellow of the team’s old name into the new one, but he said he’d need some time to get it right.
“Does it have a rhythm? Is it musical? … How do you — where do you put the emphasis?,” he pondered.
“WASHington ComMANders. This is Washington ComMANders. How do you do that? Let me think about that for a while.”
Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."