Washington, D.C.'s professional football team said Thursday that it would temporarily be called the Washington Football Team as it undergoes rebranding after its previous name, a racial slur against Native Americans, inspired years of criticism. Head coach Ron Rivera told Gayle King that the team was "not close to making a decision" on the final name and that it could be a "16 to 18 month process" as the team gears up for the official season in September.
The team first announced a review of the name in early July, citing "recent events around our country and feedback from our community." It faced growing pressure from fans and sponsors to change its name amid nationwide anti-racism protests, which broke out after the death of Black Minneapolis resident George Floyd.
"We found that it's going to be a little bit harder than we had anticipated," he said on "CBS This Morning" Friday. "This can't happen automatically, so we're going to have to go through the process."
The team officially dropped the old name on July 13.
Rivera said they wanted to do it "the right way" in order to "not miss the opportunity to rebrand ourselves, hopefully for the next 100 years."
In the meantime, Rivera said he hoped fans would understand the need for a transition and that in the end, it is the game that matters most.
"When you play well, when you win football games, people get behind you, they support you," he said. "We've got to do the things the right way. We've got to change the culture as to who we are and really kind of, not just rebrand the name, but rebrand the style of football we're going to play."
The team's culture also came under scrutiny recently after the Washington Post published allegations from over a dozen women who described sexual harassment and misogyny in its personnel office.
"When these things came to light, you know, we really had to look at ourselves and dive into it," Rivera said.
Rivera, who joined the team in January, said he was not aware of the allegations before he took the job.
"I didn't know these things had occurred. You know, we had to react, we had to do things the right way. That's what we're going to do," he said.
He said the team's owner, Daniel Snyder, hired an outside firm to "recommend the changes" needed.
The NFL itself has faced controversy in recent years over players protesting racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem, a gesture popularized by former quarterback Colin Kaepernick. President Trump condemned Kaepernick and the player has not been signed by a team since 2016. Last month, Commissioner Roger Goodell said "we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier" who were protesting.
Rivera said he would "most certainly" support any players who kneeled during the upcoming season.
"These guys, all they're doing is exercising their fundamental rights. And I'll support them because, you know, it's what our military had fought for. You know, for freedom," he said. "We can't look at it any other way."
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