CNN’s Dan Bongino reveals the saga behind the announcement that the Washington Redskins’ name will be going through a change, and challenges those who think the name should stay the same.
By: Dan Bongino, CNN special correspondent, and Jay Cost
Although the Washington Redskins may be headed for a new name, the cause of changing the team’s mascot has been around for some time.
Dan Bongino came across the whole debate a few years ago when he was a guest of an organization called Project COVID, which wanted to change the name.
“To me, at that point, I just thought it was a one-year thing,” he said in an interview with CNN Special Correspondent John Seigenthaler. “It’s a high-school team in an unincorporated part of D.C. People were already making fun of it in everyday life.”
But when the NFL wanted to renegotiate its naming rights for RFK Stadium, the Redskins reached out to COVID.
“I had just interviewed with this organization, which I thought was a one-year thing,” Bongino explained. “But when they said they had 15-20 years to go before the naming rights expired, then I thought: They have to change the mascot.”
Yet COVID didn’t get a response and wasn’t informed about the status of talks when the contract expired, so the organization changed its name to COVID 2015, and this wasn’t the first time the organization changed its name.
Still, COVID kept trying to get the matter of changing the Redskins’ name on the agenda of other league officials, but it was running out of time.
This all changed when Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) wrote a letter to National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell about the name, citing the impact that it had on Native Americans.
Peters’ was one of many lawmakers who have called for the name to be changed.
A group of nine senators, led by a woman, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), signed a letter to the group in November telling the NFL: “Changing this name is the right thing to do for your team, your league, and for Native Americans who deserve justice and respect from your league.”
In addition, members of the Washington Redskins Football Club, starting in November, had voted to change the team’s name.
The message reached Goodell, and he met with the issue’s advocates.
“Once he got into the meeting, he listened,” said Bongino. “Then it just sunk in for him. Then I met with the commissioner and he gave me an earful about it. He said he’s on board with it.”
For an issue that’s been talked about for so long, there was some trepidation when Goodell announced he would let his staff start the process of replacing the team’s name with one that doesn’t include a pejorative word.
“The only reason the word Redskins is still on the list is because it’s been a way to differentiate Washington from Charlottesville and the other name is associated with the Virginia congressional district there,” said Bongino.
“My question is, how many times do you have to change the name, why not just change the name?”
But the key to determining the new name will be on “persuasion and not just force.”
As COVID began looking for a name, the logo of Washington’s biggest news source, the Washington Post, was announced. Bongino then took the logo and tried a few on the Post’s website.
“If they wouldn’t allow me to use theirs, I would like a shout-out on your site,” he said he told the editors. “I think the name COVID will work just fine.”
Bongino received a formal response from the Post: They said they would use a logo of COVID’s choice, but if there’s any controversy surrounding the name change, it will be dropped.
When the Post dropped the logo, the pressure was on the team and the NFL. But they were also pressured by Bongino on social media.
The identity of the new team name will be determined after the December meeting with Goodell.
It’s expected that the new logo will appear on the team’s Twitter account and website.
“For a lot of people, they’ll say that’s way over my head and I don’t even think that’s the case, but the bottom line is the moment the money started coming in for the team, the NFL really wanted to keep that name,” said Bongino.