Senator demands Commanders return to old logo as part of approval for RFK stadium control, potential new stadium (2024)

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) suggests bringing back old logo with new team name, merchandise sales.

WASHINGTON — A Montana senator who plays a key role in advancing a bill in Congress which would give D.C. control of the RFK site long term, for potential use as the site of a new Washington Commanders stadium, is demanding team ownership bring back the old Indian logo when the team was named the “Redskins.”

Washington Football changed the “Redskins” name in 2020, after then owner Daniel Snyder responded to economic pressure in the wake of the George Floyd protests by retiring the name and logo. Meriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term as being “used as an insulting and contemptuous term for an American Indian.”

The team then called itself the "Washington Football Team" before rebranding as the Commanders in 2022.

In an advanced copy of remarks prepared for a hearing on the RFK legislation Wednesday and obtained by WUSA9, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) is demanding current Commander’s ownership and the NFL “honor the pride, history and heritage of the Blackfeet Tribe who are my constituents in Montana for the tribe’s contributions to the team’s legacy.”

Daines says the team’s old logo was based on the image of Chief Two Guns White Calf, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe. He says in 1971, a tribe member named Blackie Wetzel met with former Washington Redskins owner George Allen, then team Head Coach and General Manager, and suggested the use of Chief Two Guns White Calf face as the team’s new logo, changing it from a single “R.”

Senator demands Commanders return to old logo as part of approval for RFK stadium control, potential new stadium (1) Senator demands Commanders return to old logo as part of approval for RFK stadium control, potential new stadium (2)

Credit: Ryan Wetzel

Blackie Wetzel with Senator Robert F. Kennedy in the 1960's

“Make no mistake, this logo was inspired and envisioned by Wetzel as a tribute to Native Americans,” Daines writes. “It is not a caricature. It is a description of pride and strength. Of courage and honor.”

In a phone interview from his home in Montana Tuesday, Blackie Wetzel's grandson Ryan Weztel said he has already spoke with multiple members of the Commanders front office on a conference call about his family's request to bring back the old logo.

When they changed the name and logo, it was just banned from the NFL and forgotten about," Weztel said. "And that’s not fair to my family and my grandfather and his legacy."

Weztel said his conversation with he Commanders was positive, but he was "not totally sold on all the suggestions" the team had to honor his grandfather and the logo.

"They are intrigued; they are interested," Wetzel said. "They understand everything from my perspective and my family’s perspective. My hope is we can come to a place where we can honor my grandfather permanently in the midst of the change."

Senator demands Commanders return to old logo as part of approval for RFK stadium control, potential new stadium (3) Senator demands Commanders return to old logo as part of approval for RFK stadium control, potential new stadium (4)

Credit: Ryan Wetzel

Photo of Blackie Wetzel's son Ryan

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a democrat who represents D.C. in the House of Representatives and has spent years trying to get the District long term control of the RFK site, said she opposes the idea of bringing back the former logo.

"I’m not sure that would be any different than bringing back the name," Holmes Norton said. "It would recall that name, which is offensive. I’m not sure that bringing back the logo would do anything but enhance the (old) name which of course I don’t support."

Daines said he is not encouraging the team to bring back the old name, only the old logo.

“What I am demanding is straightforward,” Daines plans to say at Wednesday’s hearing. “That the new team leadership and the NFL sit down with the Wetzel family, with the Blackfeet, sit down with tribal leaders, and find a way to properly honor the history of the logo and heritage of our tribal nations, and to rededicate the organization as an advocate for Indian Country.”

Daines suggests that effort could take many forms, including:

  • Resuming merchandise sales featuring the logo and using a portion of the proceeds to bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and other tribal causes.
  • Restoring the logo with a new team name that is supported by tribal leaders and will bring unity across communities.
  • Telling the history of the logo’s connection to the Wetzel family and honoring the native communities it represents.

Daines points out on the NFL website, you can buy a retro Houston Oilers jersey with the old logo, but nowhere on the website can you find merchandise with the Commanders old Native American logo.

Tuesday, a Commanders spokesperson told WUSA9 “We have spoken directly with the Wetzel family and are working collaboratively to recognize Blackie Wetzel for his contributions in creating our former logo.”

Daines has a unique position in the future of the RFK bill and potential stadium discussion. He serves as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which oversees the National Park Service, the agency that owns the RFK land. As such, the bill will need Senator Daines’ approval to advance in the Senate for a full vote.

A spokesperson for Daines indicated the Senator would not advance the bill out of committee without the Wetzel family's approval and satisfaction the logo will be honored.

Ryan Wetzel is not ready to give that approval.

"Right now it’s a matter of what the Commanders really commit to," he said.

H.R.4984, the D.C. Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium Campus Revitalization Act, already overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives. The bill transfers administration over the RFK Memorial Stadium Campus from the Park Service to the District of Columbia for 99 years, clearing the way for the city to strike a potential deal for a new Commanders stadium there.

The team’s majority owner, Josh Harris, has said the team is considering the RFK site for its new stadium, in addition to sites in Maryland and Virginia.

Current Commanders coach Dan Quinn raised eyebrows on Saturday when he spoke to reports at the team’s rookie minicamp in a non-team licensed shirt which showed two Indian feathers hanging from the current Commanders “W” logo. Some fans saw it as a sign the team was interested in bringing back the old logo.

The team has not indicated any plans to do so.

Quinn was asked about his shirt on Tuesday.

“After taking this job, I was excited to bridge you know the past and the present. And what a cool privileged that is to do,” Quinn said. “I also recognize there’s a lot of layers to that. So, it was a great lesson for me.”

Quinn said he regretted the shirt took focus off the players at the mini camp.

RELATED: House passes bill to give DC power to develop RFK site and operate a sports stadium

RELATED: Commanders announce 'significant upgrades' to FedEx Field

Senator demands Commanders return to old logo as part of approval for RFK stadium control, potential new stadium (2024)
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