With the news Thursday that Washington’s NFL team will for at least the next year be known as the Washington Football Team, coach Ron Rivera spoke with Gayle King of “CBS This Morning” about efforts to change the team’s name and culture.
King told Rivera on Friday morning’s show that the placeholder name was similar to calling him Head Coach Man, and asked whether the team is close to a decision on its name.
“No, we’re not close to making a decision,” said Rivera, the former Carolina Panthers coach who took the Washington job in January. “The biggest thing we’ve learned is this is going to take steps. This can’t happen automatically. We’re going to have to go through the process.”
He said the team plans to make an announcement of the future name in about 16 to 18 months, saying the team wants to “do it the right way, and not miss the opportunity to re-brand ourselves hopefully for the next 100 years.” That would mean the team would not have a new name for at least the beginning of next season either.
Rivera also said the team is not planning to move away from its burgundy-and-gold color scheme.
“The colors will stay. The big reason is there’s so much tradition and history with this football team to change the colors would kind of distract from what this team has done in terms of its past history. With the championships that it’s won. There was an era where they won three championships in about 10 seasons. We don’t want to lose that part of our history,” he said.
King asked the coach whether the team will be able to win back fans who don’t like the decision to change the team’s name. He said winning will bring those fans back into the fold.
“We’re going to try to win the fans over by playing good football more than anything else. When you play well, when you win football games, people get behind you and they support you. We’ve got to come out and show our fan base that we’re the same football team, just a different name right now. A little placeholder again as I said.
“But we’ve got to do things the right way. We’ve got to change the culture as to who we are and we’ve got to do more than just re-brand the name, but re-brand the style of football we’re going to play, re-brand the way we do things.”
His response led into King’s next question, about the recent Washington Post report outlining allegations from 15 women, formerly employed by the team, that they had been sexually harassed by male team executives.
King asked Rivera whether he knew when he took the job he would be “inheriting a hot mess,” and whether he had any regrets about taking the job.
“No, I don’t. I truly don’t. I took this job because what I saw on the football team and who I saw as the young players this team has. To me, there’s a lot of young, quality football players that have a bright future. We’ve just gotta, as coaches, coach these guys up and give them an opportunity to have success.”
King went on to ask Rivera whether he would object to his players kneeling during the National Anthem. Rivera said he would fully support his players’ expression of their freedom of speech, and he talked with King about reading the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and having a thoughtful conversation with his players via Zoom in the days after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis.
“These guys, all they’re doing is exercising their fundamental rights, and I’ll support that. It’s what our military has fought for — our freedom. We’ve got to look at it that way; we can’t look at it any other way,” Rivera said.