Culture

One of These Birds Should Be Washington, D.C.'s New Football Mascot

The NFL team's racist name is finally gone. The Birdist has some suggestions for what should replace it.

The professional football team playing in the Washington D.C. region needs a new name. Gone is the racist slur they’ve been playing under since 1933, and in its place is, well, no one knows. The team is undergoing a “thorough review” of their identity, and is thinking through replacements. There are already fan favorites emerging, such as the Washingon Redwolves, and online betting houses are predicting institutional-type names like Presidents or Lincolns, along the lines of the Washington Nationals baseball team or Washington Capitals hockey team. 

Boring. They should rename themselves after a bird.

I’ve been a tireless proponent of good pro bird teams, and as a former DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) resident and birder, I’ve got a good handle on which D.C. species might work. 

There is a flock of NFL teams already named after birds, including two of Washington’s biggest rivals: the Philadelphia Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens. The Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks (based on the Osprey), and Arizona Cardinals round out the list. Some good birds taken, but plenty left to consider. Here are the best remaining options.

Washington Red-tailed Hawks / Redtails / Red Tails

The movement to change D.C.’s football team name has been around since at least 1972, when a delegation of people representing 11 Native American organizations met with team officials to request a new name. One of the potential replacements that’s been around the longest is Red Tails (or Redtails), in honor of the first Black aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen. The draw here would be to replace a slur with an honor (the National Office for Tuskegee Airmen is on board with the change), while also keeping the team’s burgundy-and-gold color scheme. In fact, changing the team’s name to the Red Tails is so popular that it currently has three to one odds according to BetOnline. 

Of course, Washington also has actual Red-tails: the Red-tailed Hawk. This fierce raptor is common in the District, and is a general match for the current color scheme. Let's also not forget that Red-tailed Hawks have a fearsome call. All together, it'd be a great mascot. I’ll leave it up to ownership to figure out if they want to incorporate the bird into a scheme based around the aviators, but this name is a can’t-miss.  

Washington Kestrels

American Kestrel. Photo: Sylvia Hunt/Audubon Photography Awards

But it’s not the only option. I’d love to see the team rebrand after this nimble falcon, one of the most beautiful birds in the country. Unlike the burly Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrels are as fast as a wide receiver on a fade route. They are native to the District—though they have become harder to find as the open fields they prefer have disappeared—and common in the surrounding area. A logo and uniforms based on the Kestrel would be gorgeous. The team could keep its current colors if it wanted, but it could also add that smoky kestrel blue, and the players would have a blast mimicking the kestrel facial pattern in eye-black. For what it’s worth, Washington Kestrels was the most popular option of those I proposed on Twitter.  

Washington Merlins

Another small falcon, Merlin would fit right in with the two of D.C.’s other supernatural team names: the WNBA’s Mystics and the NBA’s Wizards. (It should be noted that the basketball team only became the Wizards in 1996, after some bad press around its former name, the Bullets.) Though they aren’t red or gold at all, and don’t breed in the District, Merlins are fierce, fast raptors worthy of a professional mascot.

Washington Wood Thrushes

Wood Thrush. Photo: Nate Rathbun/USFWS

The venerable Wood Thrush is the Official Bird of the District of Columbia, and would be a bold—and shrewd—choice for a mascot. The Washington football team currently plays in a stadium in Maryland, but has long eyed a return to the District proper, likely on the site of the old RFK stadium. However, D.C. officials have said that they wouldn’t allow the team to move back with a slur for a name. So, rebranding while also choosing the District’s state bird might earn some real brownie points. 

As much as I love Wood Thrushes, though, I can’t really see this name happening. Cheering “Here We Go Wood Thrushes, Here We Go!” isn’t very catchy, the reddish color of the bird isn’t a good match for the burgundy of their current color scheme, and, last but certainly not least, “thrush” is also a type of gross fungal infection of the mouth. Not really the kind of association the team needs. 

D.C. Double-Crested Cormorants

They’ll never go for this one, but I just love the idea of a team using the four-letter banding code of the Double-crested Cormorant, making them the D.C. DCCOs. Look, it’s not the worst choice; Double-cresteds are common in both of the rivers flanking the District and stellar hunters. But they’re also kinda goofy and not very intimidating (unless you’re a bass), and they don’t fit the color scheme at all. 

Washington Kingfishers

Belted Kingfisher. Photo: Christopher Ciccone/Audubon Photography Awards

I love everything about this one. Belted Kingfishers, found along the Anacostia River right outside the team’s aspirational home at RFK, are universally beloved. They’re tough, loud, and bombastically ferocious in pursuit of their prey. The colors don’t match, but the spirit does. If the team was willing to do a full-on rebranding with new colors and everything, this would probably be my choice. I’d buy all the jerseys of this team that I could afford.

Washington Owls

It's pretty wild that there are no professional sports teams named after owls, right? At least three species of owl breed in the District—Barred, Great-horned, and Eastern Screech—and several other species can be found with luck at other times of the year. Great Horned is maybe the best-known species here, and I think the best fit: The colors aren’t too far off, and I’d just love to hear a stadium full of fans hooting in unison after every good play. 

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