Washington Commanders: Why Virginians Couldn’t Bet On New Name

Written By Dann Stupp on February 2, 2022
Washington Commanders name change

With the Washington Commanders name change, the NFL has a new team. Well, a new team name, anyway.

However, as fans of the former Washington Redskins (and short-lived Washington Football Team) speculated about all of the possibilities over the two years, some bettors had a persistent question.

Why can’t I bet on the Washington name change at Virginia sportsbooks?

As it turns out, you can legally bet on a lot of things within the sports world. And if you leave Virginia’s borders, you can find even more wagering options that you can’t find here.

But when it comes to events such as name changes, draft picks and even year-end awards, Virginia sports-betting laws are clear: No, no, no.

Redskins, WFT no more with Washington Commanders name change

Team officials formally announced the Washington Commanders name change on Wednesday morning.

In addition to an announcement on the “Today” show, Washington had quickly rebranded its social-media presence with the new name, logos and uniforms. However, the team colors of burgundy and gold remain.

Commanders co-owners Dan Snyder and Tanya Snyder, team president Jason Wright and other players and executives were also at FedExField in Prince George’s County, Maryland, for an unveiling:

The initial public reaction? Well, if you scroll through the latest tweets on the subject, you’ll of course see some jokes. But for the most part, folks feel like it’s a perfectly acceptable name that seems fairly appropriate for the military- and Navy-centric Washington, DC area.

(It didn’t exactly wow and dazzle like the Seattle Kraken unveiling in 2020, though.)

The Commanders option now replaces the short-lived “Washington Football Team” likeness. The team chose that stop-gap “WFT” moniker for the past two seasons while doing a more exhaustive search for a new permanent identity.

The team had been known as the Redskins for 87 years. However, that Native American imagery had become growingly problematic over the years. It reached a head in 2020. And after years of public and investor pressure, Dan Snyder finally met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to begin the name-change process.

Why “Commanders” was an odds-on favorite

Why the Commanders? Well, it’s an actual Naval rank, so that tie-in is obvious in this region.

But more broadly, it can refer to someone who’s in charge and in control. I mean, there are worse qualities a football team could have. And perhaps just as importantly, the Washington Commanders option didn’t have any major trademark issues (lookin’ at you, Cleveland Guardians).

Dan Snyder stated:

“As an organization, we are excited to rally and rise together as one under our new identity while paying homage to our local roots and what it means to represent the nation’s capital. As we kick off our 90th season, it is important for our organization and fans to pay tribute to our past traditions, history, legacy and the greats that came before us. We continue to honor and represent the Burgundy & Gold while forging a pathway to a new era in Washington. Today may mark the first day for the Washington Commanders, but we are and always will be Washington.”

In the past few weeks, before the formal Washington Commanders name change, we saw lots of speculation and suggestions for the new moniker. Some of the other leading candidates for the Washington mascot change included:

  • Admirals
  • Brigade
  • Defenders
  • Federals
  • Presidents
  • Red Tails
  • Red Wolves
  • Washington Football Team (permanently)

The team even tossed in some head-fakes to try to throw sleuths off the scent. Still, some Washington football enthusiasts were determined they could predict the name. They even thought some long-shot options could have some betting value if sportsbooks offered odds.

And that got some of them thinking: Why couldn’t I bet on the Washington Commanders name change?

Virginia prohibits betting on certain sports props

Before the age of legal nationwide US sports betting, many folks placed their bets with unregulated offshore sportsbooks. Unlike Virginia and other regulated sports-betting jurisdictions, those offshore operators sometimes offer odds on events you can’t legally wager on in the US.

Some of them aren’t even sports-related.

Some examples:

  • MVP and other league awards that are voted upon
  • Hall of fame selections
  • Draft picks
  • Results of US elections
  • Lottery results
  • Stock market performance

Because those results aren’t purely random – and because the results can be manipulated by voters, judges or everyday people – VA laws prohibit those types of wagers. It’s about the integrity of the event, lawmakers had argued.

However, not all states have identical legislation, and in some US states, you can bet on MVP awards. Or specific draft picks. (And come Super Bowl Sunday, those more liberal betting states usually have a whole slew of prop options.)

But with something like the Washington Commanders name change? Virginia regulators will never allow betting on these easily manipulated and/or easily spoiled events.

Thankfully, though, whether it’s the NFL or dozens of other sports, there’s still plenty left to bet at the VA books.

Photo by AP / Patrick Semansky
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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN, MLB.com and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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