New President Jason Wright Commends Dan Snyder’s Rebranding of the Washington Football Team
Jason Wright started his week as the first Black team president in the NFL with words of encouragement regarding team owner Dan Snyder and his wife Tanya as he stepped into the tough job of taking over the helm of the Washington Football Team.
Snyder, who has undergone his fair share of criticism in recent years for his handling of the team in prior seasons, has made some significant changes this year, and hiring Wright is just the latest of them. After firing his former team president, Bruce Allen, who had been on board for years, Wright brought in Ron Rivera, the highly respected former coach of the Carolina Panthers, in December of 2019 to improve the team’s performance on the field.
Rivera made significant changes to the team’s sideline, bringing with him his own hand-picked coordinators, position coaches, and scouts, as well as talent evaluators. This brought a new approach to the team’s practices and changes in the training camp that some players such as runningback Adrian Peterson have described as “night and day.”
Rivera’s positive impact on the team extended beyond his rigorous focus and improved training practices on the field when, following the murder of George Floyd and the national outcry against racial violence that has culminated in the Black Lives Matter movement, he expressed his support for players who protested racial injustice. Rivera has also committed to continuing his training of the team during the upcoming season, even as he undergoes treatment for skin cancer.
In keeping with the team’s stance on racial equality, Snyder also made the startling move of eliminating the name of team founder George Preston Marshall from the team archives and stadium due to Marshall’s reputed opposition to signing Black players. Marshall was also responsible for naming the team the Redskins, which many activists have criticized as a racist slur that disrespects Native Americans. Snyder not only removed Marshall’s influence from the team’s profile, he also agreed to rename the team, a process that is ongoing, and which Wright says will require community participation.
Wright has spoken to press about his plan to seek input from the team’s players, sponsors, and supporters, as well as local community leaders in order to select a name that truly represents the team’s evolving culture and new identity.
He has also expressed his faith in Snyder’s commitment to rebranding the entire organization, including the team’s company culture, to foster an environment that encourages diversity and inclusion, and stands against any form of discrimination. This commitment on Snyder’s part comes as a response to recent allegations of sexual misconduct levied by 15 female employees against key executives on the team, one of whom has been fired by Snyder, and the other who resigned of his own accord. Several of the women who filed the complaint have expressed that sexism is rampant in sports culture in general, and a problem that extends beyond the Washington club.
Snyder has recently hired Wilkinson Walsh LLP, an independent company led by attorney Beth Wilkinson, to conduct an internal investigation into the allegations as well as the entire workplace culture of the team. Wilkinson will also present recommendations for improving the culture in the workplace, and “to set new employee standards for the future,” Snyder affirmed. Adding on, he mentioned that Beth Wilkinson and her firm have the power and skills to do a complete and unbiased investigation and follow it up with any recommendations that are needed. New policies will be implemented, and the infrastructure of human resources will also be strengthened to make sure such issues do not come up in the future. They also aim to create a respectful and inclusive team culture.
In a move to expand the team’s culture of inclusion and diversity, Snyder and his wife Tanya also recently appointed former NBCSW anchor Julie Donaldson as Senior Vice President of Media. “Julie Donaldson is a trailblazing journalist who has worked on multiple award-winning shows and has a passion for sports in the DMV. She has contributed countless hours of her time to work alongside Tanya and WOW (Women of Washington) to help raise awareness for breast cancer. She has been a staple in the community and I can’t think of anyone better to lead our organization’s in-house media and content into this new digital age,” he said. Donaldson will also wield a significant influence on the creative communication that circulates within the team’s workplace, contributing to a culture of equality that discourages sexism.
Given the turmoil and massive changes that the club is undergoing, Wright has been questioned as to why he accepted the job at the Washington club. He responded to this in several interviews by speaking to the importance of this historical moment and the opportunity to bring about significant and lasting changes, not only in the Washington club, but also in the history of the NFL. “To be able to shape the identity of an NFL franchise, that’s a generational type of decision,” he remarked. “Who wouldn’t want to be at the helm of that?”
Wright also went on to discuss his meetings with Dan and Tanya Snyder, and the 36 hours of conversations that ultimately led him to agree to work with them, and to believe that their intentions are genuinely good.
“Once we met, the conversations we had I can only describe as surprising,” he noted in a recent interview. Words, which were once heard being spoken by Coach Rivera, were said: ‘a culture which is inclusive, transparent and has accountability.’ Wright added on that he was inspired by those values along with the raw emotions of the conversation, and he became excited to work with them, and made his path here.
He also stated that Snyder’s actions have been in line with his words. Wright noted that clear steps have been taken which have made him think that it’s more than just words. Coach Rivera and Julie Donaldson, along with the independent investigation, have been a part of that. People who have been revealed as bad apples, are under a quick and smooth movement to take them out of the organization. All these are signs that it is not all just talk, and that they are moving in a new direction, and action will be taken.
Snyder made an astute move in hiring Wright, based in large part on Wright’s involvement in labor discussions with the National Football Players Association (NFLPA) during the 2011 NFL lockout. His decision comes as relief to many supporters who were unhappy with Bruce Allen’s performance. It also cements his commitment to the culture of diversity and inclusion that he wants for the club moving forward.
While the overall culture that characterizes the NFL and the sports industry in general is known to be less than equitable, it is evident that Snyder is on a mission to overhaul the Washington club and move it forward in a new and more equitable direction. Heads have rolled, and has hired some of the most respected and qualified individuals in the sports industry and placed them in key roles in his organization. These steps demonstrate his commitment to improving the club’s culture of inclusion, as well as making things more comfortable for everyone in the workplace. All in all, he is making moves that many of the team’s fans find encouraging, and leaving the naysayers very little to criticize.
Now we can only hope that the evolution of Daniel Snyder’s Washington team will serve as an example for other organizations in the NFL, and perhaps even encourage the development of an improved and more equitable culture across all sports.