The Washington Defenders? NFL Fans Voice Preference for D.C. Franchise’s New Name

NFL fans were torn on whether the organization should keep Washington Football Team moniker or change it

A detailed view of the Washington Football Team logo at FedExField on Dec. 20, 2020. Thirty-two percent of NFL fans said the organization should keep the current name rather than rebrand the team, according to recent Morning Consult data. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

After playing two seasons as the Washington Football Team, the District of Columbia-based NFL franchise plans to announce its long-term brand identity on Feb. 2. Ahead of the big reveal, new Morning Consult polling shows that NFL fans are split on whether the team should introduce a new name or remain the Washington Football Team.

NFL Fans Split on Washington Football Team Moniker

U.S. adults who identified as NFL fans were asked if the Washington Football Team should change its current name

Poll conducted Jan. 14-15, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,512 NFL fans, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

What the numbers say

  • Self-identified NFL fans were almost evenly split on whether the team should change its Washington Football Team moniker (36 percent) or keep it (32 percent). The remaining 32 percent said they either didn’t know or had no opinion on the matter. Self-identified “avid” NFL fans were more likely to support a name change, with 48 percent saying the team should adopt a new identity and 34 percent saying it should keep the current one.
Defenders Ranks as NFL Fans’ Top Choice for Washington D.C. Franchise

U.S. adults who identified as NFL fans were asked whether they have a positive or negative opinion of each of the following potential names for the league’s Washington D.C.-based team:

Poll conducted Jan. 14-15, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,512 NFL fans, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.
  • Of the new identities that were reportedly being considered by the organization, the Washington Defenders was the most popular among NFL fans surveyed, with 40 percent expressing a favorable opinion of the name. Military-themed options were popular, with Admirals and Commanders (38 percent each) also scoring high marks with football fans compared to alternatives. The current Football Team moniker (35 percent) scored higher than five other options.
  • The Washington Presidents was the least popular of the nine options, with 56 percent of respondents expressing an unfavorable opinion of the name, compared with just 23 percent who had a favorable opinion of it.
  • Asked to choose which of the nine options was their favorite, 15 percent of NFL fans chose the existing Football Team moniker, which was slightly more popular than the Defenders (12 percent), Admirals (10 percent) and Redtails (10 percent), a reference to the Tuskegee Airmen, a primarily Black group of military pilots.

The impact

Washington’s NFL team has its work cut out for it in choosing a name that fans can get on board with right out of the gate. Among NFL fans, Defenders was the only choice that had a positive net favorability rating, meaning the share of respondents with a favorable opinion of the name was greater than the share with an unfavorable opinion. In addition, a 2020 Morning Consult poll found that the majority of Americans opposed the team abandoning its longtime “Redskins” moniker in the first place.

Still, the fact that 1 in 3 NFL fans believes the team should remain the Washington Football Team shows that fans can grow to like a name over time, even one that was almost universally panned when it was first introduced. The surest way to inspire enthusiasm for a new name, of course, would be to achieve some level of postseason success — something fans haven’t seen since the team’s last playoff win in 2005.

The Jan. 14-15, 2022 poll was conducted among a representative sample of 1,512 self-identified NFL fans, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Morning Consult