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Washington football team to retire Redskins name

By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr.

WASHINGTON – After decades of controversy, protests and calls for change, the Washington Redskins name will finally be retired. The team, which has maintained its name since 1933, released a statement on Monday that it would change its name and logo.

Although a new name has not yet been revealed, team owner Dan Snyder and head coach Ron Rivera will be working closely to rebrand the franchise.

The shift for the franchise to change its name comes just weeks after pressure from more than 80 shareholders, worth a combined $620 billion, asked that Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo end their relationships with the Washington football team if it did not change its name.

Subsequently, on July 2, FedEx Corporation, who owns the naming rights to the franchise’s stadium, requested that the Redskins change the name. Shortly after, Nike stopped selling “Redskins” products on its website.

The Washington football team also received pressure from the federal government. The area surrounding RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., has been considered atop the team’s list for a new site, but the federal government owns the land.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who oversees the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service, which owns the land in which RFK sits, objected to the Redskins moving to the site as long as the moniker remained unchanged.

“The time [for the name] has ended,” Grijalva told the Washington Post. “There is no way to justify it. You either step into this century, or you don’t. It’s up to the owner of the team to do that.” 

As a result of the pressure from high-profile entities, the team began reviewing its name on July 3 before releasing a name change statement on Monday.

The eventual call for the name-change comes as a shift from the owner’s previously defiant position.

“We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER-you can use all caps,” Snyder said in 2013.

Native American leaders, including Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez shared support of the Washington football team, removing its controversial name but credited the change to the relentless work of Indigenous people rather than the team’s owner.

In a statement, Nez also said the team should consider the name “Code Talkers” to honor the Navajo Code Talkers and other groups who used language as a strategy in World War II.

Whether the team chooses the “Code Talkers” name or opts for another monicker, change is on the Washington team’s horizon, which has long been in the heat of criticism from Native American communities.

As early as 1972, a delegation of 11 people representing a variety of Indigenous groups met with then-Redskins President Edward Bennett Williams to request the football team derogatory name. Still, the name stayed the same.

As recently as 2014, Indigenous leader Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Indian Nation requested that FedEx distance its ties with the football team, but to no avail.

A general view of the Washington Redskins logo at FedEx Field. Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./The Sports Pulse.

Despite the franchise’s historical lack of change over previous decades, the recent outcry for a new name to the Washington football team comes at a time of social and cultural transition for the nation.

In the months of protests since the death of George Floyd, major corporations have endured increased scrutiny after public pressure.

Food brands Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s announced intentions of changing their names. Within the realm of sports, the Minnesota Twins removed a statue of former racist owner Calvin Griffith and NASCAR banned the Confederate flags from races.

While the Redskins are the most blatant and controversial sports team names directed at Native American people, Washington’s name change may be the first of many. The Cleveland Indians have begun reviewing ways to change its name, and the Atlanta Braves are examining the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ ritual.

Shorthanded D.C. United mounts comeback for heroic draw in MLS is Back debut

By Mario Amaya/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy photo/D.C. United

WASHINGTON – In their MLS is Back Tournament debut, D.C. United mounted a heroic two-goal comeback, scoring twice in the last 10 minutes while down to 10 men, to tie last year’s Eastern Conference Champions Toronto FC 2-2 in Orlando, Florida, on Monday.

With the result, United (0-0-1) earned a critical point against a former MLS Cup contender, which will carry over into their regular season after the tournament. The game was originally scheduled for Sunday, but due to COVID-19 testing complications, Major League Soccer postponed it for a day.

United struggled early on offensively to create chances while being unable to stop Toronto FC academy product Ayo Akinola defensively.

The 20-year-old striker made an impact during the 12th minute when he received a pass from teammate Alejandro Pozuelo from the top of the penalty area. 

Akinola made a quick turn before unleashing a 21-yard strike into the lower right side of the goal net to give The Reds (0-0-1, 1 point) a one-goal advantage.

Despite multiple attempts on goal by United striker Ola Kamara, Toronto struck again moments before halftime. Toronto’s Pablo Piatti headed a loose ball forward toward United territory, but miscommunication by defenders Steve Birnbaum and Frédéric Brillant allowed Pozuelo to regain possession. He quickly passed it through goalkeeper Bill Hamid to Akinola for the tap-in.

“We weren’t able to make them uncomfortable enough; [Toronto] is a very good team where if they have time and space, they’re going to get good looks, but saying that, the goals are very soft.” United head coach Ben Olsen said. “We had plenty of numbers around the ball for the first goal and in the second one, we gift it to them. So, we find ourselves in a two-zero hole.”

Adding to its woes, United also went down 10 men before halftime when midfielder Júnior Moreno was ejected from the match after receiving his second yellow card on a late tackle from behind to Toronto midfielder Marky Delgado.

Heading into the second half, Olsen decided to make several substitutions, including giving 17-year-old Kevin Paredes his professional debut and defender Oniel Fisher making his second appearance since a 1 1/2 year injury. However, the changes did not lead to immediate results.

Things changed in the 80th minute when veteran midfielder Federico Higuaín made his United debut. The Argentine playmaker would not take long to make an impact.

Four minutes after entering the match, a Toronto pass was intercepted by midfielder Russell Canouse and quickly distributed to teammate Felipe Martins. 

D.C. United midfielder Russell Canouse (4) handles the ball. Photo by Phil Peters/The Sports Pulse)

The Brazilian knifed a pass in between the Toronto backline to finding a running Higuain wide open. The 35-year-old lobbed the ball over Westberg for his first goal with the Black-and-Red.

“And at the moment, I faced the goalkeeper, I knew the distance between him and I and how it will give me the opportunity to chip it,” Higuain said. “I’m confident of my game, my teammates, trust in [myself], and that’s why I tried that shot. It was a good goal, and it was a goal that helped us believe that we can tie the game.”

A minute into stoppage time, after being awarded a foul near midfield, Martins centered a long cross to Birnbaum, who headed the ball across the penalty area to a waiting Brillant. 

The French defender connected with a header of his own past goalkeeper Quinten Westberg to tie the match. The goal, his second of the season, was more than enough to avenge his first-half mistake.

“I was sad for the team with this mistake, (but) the team didn’t blame me,” Brillant said. “During halftime, they push me and it gave us a good mentality that we have to keep it for the rest of this tournament. We have to be a group as strong as we were with everything we did today.”

With seconds remaining, Akinola attempted a last-ditch volley to complete his hat-trick. Still, goalkeeper Bill Hamid made a fingertip save, pushing the ball over the crossbar to preserve United’s result.

Olsen credits his team for their gutsy performance and believes that, despite their first-half performance, United showed promise after a four-month layoff.

“To get something out of that game, I think it says a lot about our group,” Olsen said. “Yes, we can get better. But this is a marathon and the trick in these tournaments is to keep pushing and getting better throughout the tournament.”

United’s next match is against the New England Revolution on Friday, July 17, at 8 p.m.

Spirit defeats Dash in final game of preliminary round of Challenge Cup

Spirit lose Sullivan for rest of NWSL Challenge Cup competition

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photos courtesy of ISI Photos

WASHINGTON – A 16th-minute goal by midfielder Bayley Feist was enough for the Washington Spirit to capture a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dash in their fourth match in the NWSL’s Challenge Cup.

Washington (2-1-1) ends the preliminary round with seven points. Pending the results of the final three matches in the stage, the Spirit could finish as high as second place in the eight-team tournament before the knockout rounds begin.

It did not take long for the Spirit to start pressing forward with several opportunities on goal against a fatigued Houston side. The Dash (1-2-1) last played on July 8, their fourth game in 12 days, whereas their Washington counterparts had a six-day layoff.

HERRIMAN, UT – JULY 12: Washington Spirit players celebrate during a game between Houston Dash and Washington Spirit at Zions Bank Stadium on July 12, 2020 in Herriman, Utah.

With their opponents unable to wrestle the ball away, Washington bombarded ahead with forwards Kumi Yokoyama and Ashley Sanchez setting up attacks from the flanks. Using their speed, the Spirit fired three shots on goal in the opening 15 minutes.

Yokoyama elected to slow down the pace in the 16th minute and send a lateral pass to striker Ashley Hatch on the top of the penalty area. The former Brigham Young University star elected to pass the ball to an approaching Feist, who took two dribbles before unleashing a right-footed shot for the goal.

“That one felt good; I was due for a goal,” Feist said. “I saw (Hatch) dribbling the ball up the sideline, and she cut it back. I kinda opened my body up a little bit, took a touch, placed it well and it went in.”

Washington continued to dominate as they finished the first half with 69% of the ball possession and outshoot Houston, 8-2, in on-target attempts. One of the Dash’s efforts did almost tie the game as striker Rachel Daly beat defender Tori Huster to a loose ball and hit a shot off the crossbar moments before halftime.

Five minutes into the second half, Washington captain Andi Sullivan came down with a non-contact injury on her left knee. She limped off the field on her own power when subbed out. 

In his postgame press conference, Washington Spirit Head Coach Ritchie Burke said team doctors believed that she reaggravated a previous injury on her meniscus and will have an MRI performed after the game.

“Hopefully, she is ready to go 90 minutes next week in the next round,” Burke said.

However, today, the team announced that Sullivan suffered a torn meniscus and will miss the NWSL Challenge Cup. 

“The team is rallying around our captain and incredible leader, and we are now highly motivated to play extra hard in her honor,” Burke said. “It’s amazing how many well-wishes I’ve received from everyone in football about Andi, and it’s a testimony to her popularity as well as the amount of respect she has from people at the highest levels of the game.”

Sanchez looked poised to help Washington add a second goal when she ran down the left flank and cut inside into the penalty area, sending in a low pass to Hatch. However, goalkeeper Jane Campbell denied her attempt to score with a quick save.

Houston continued to struggle until forward Katie Stengel’s left-footed shot in the 67th minute flew over goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe’s head towards Washington’s goal. However, defender Paige Nielsen headed the ball out of danger for the Spirit’s first shutout of the tournament.

While being seeded high for the knockout stage is important, health is a more significant concern going forward, Burke said. Star midfielder Rose Lavelle missed the Houston game due to a reported ankle injury. 

“They are well bought-in to our tactics and methodology, and we are well unified,” Burke said. “I think we are in a good place.”

Redskins Rant – The podcast formerly known as Redskins Rant

Washington Redskins helmet. Courtesy photo.

Note* Washington Redskins announced retirement of team name prior to show recording.

Redskins Rant – Featuring Daniel Kucin Jr. and Sean Farrell

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Courtesy photo.

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COVID-19 testing results postpone D.C. United’s opening match in MLS is Back Tournament

By Mario Amaya/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – D.C. United’s first match in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando against Toronto FC, scheduled for Sunday, July 11, has been postponed following the results of two COVID-19 tests, Major League Soccer officials said. 

In a statement released prior to the scheduled kickoff, MLS said one player tested positive for COVID-19 while another received “an inconclusive test” result. Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott told multiple outlets in an impromptu press conference that a United player tested positive. 

“Because of the arrival time of the clubs in Orlando, the league’s protocol called for retesting both teams this morning and to await the results of those tests prior to playing the match,” the league said. “Major League Soccer will continue to prioritize the health and safety of all participants of the MLS is Back Tournament in making these decisions.” 

League policy states that the player will be moved away from the team’s accommodations at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort and be quarantined for 14 days. 

United arrived at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the match, slated to kick off at 9 a.m., whereas Toronto FC did not before the match was called off. The Washington Post reported United trained for a few minutes before boarding back on the buses to return to their hotel rooms. 

Both teams were making their debut in the tournament in group play. 

D.C. United has yet to play in the MLS Is Back Tournament. Photo by Phillip Peters/The Sports Pulse.

Both teams are in Group C with the Montreal Impact and the New England Revolution, who had played earlier in the week. The Revolution won 1-0. 

Prior to the game’s start, United players showed their excitement leading up to the match on their social media platforms. It would have been United’s first game in four months. However, following the cancellation, the mood of their posts changed. 

This is not the first time MLS rescheduled tournament games. FC Dallas was pulled from the competition after 10 players, and a member of their coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19, causing a reworking of Group B teams. 

Nashville SC was also pulled out before matches began after nine players tested positive before arriving in Orlando. MLS changed many matchdays, including moving United’s game with Toronto, initially scheduled for Friday, July 10, to Sunday. 

“To every DC United supporter, our families & friends, I’m sorry you woke up so early to see us play, to then have the match postponed AGAIN,” United goalkeeper Bill Hamid said on Twitter. “Especially after so many people planned originally to watch the game which was meant to play on Friday! Have a beautiful Sunday, regardless.” 

Update*

United is still scheduled to play against ND.C. United’s first match in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando against Toronto FC, scheduled for Sunday, July 11, has been postponed to Monday, July 12, following the results of two COVID-19 tests, Major League Soccer officials said. 

The schedule change will also affect United’s game against New England Revolution, moving it from Thursday, July 16 to Friday, July 17 at 8 p.m.

Washington, D.C. launches bid for 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor 

WASHINGTON – Before a ball is kicked in the FIFA Men’s World Cup in 2022 in Qatar, Washington, D.C. formally announced its bid to host matches in the next edition of the tournament in 2026. 

The District will compete with 16 other cities vying for 10 spots to represent the United States as hosts for the 2026 World Cup.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said with all the problems the country is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s bid’s announcement gives people something to look forward to in the future.  

“And when the tournament comes to North America, it only makes sense for D.C. — the Sports Capital and District of Champions — to host,” Bowser said. “We are already a city united by the game, and in 2026, we look forward to uniting the world.”

Events DC Spokesperson Ashley Forrester said FedExField, the home stadium for the NFL’s Washington Redskins, is the proposed venue for matches. 

The Landover, Maryland stadium hosted five games of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup and arranged several high-profile friendlies featuring European and international teams. FedExField’s current capacity is listed at 82,000. 

The city’s proposal also features Audi Field, D.C. United’s new stadium, as one of World Cup teams’ training sites. Other practice locations include The Fields at RFK Campus, Trinity University and the Maryland SoccerPlex. 

D.C.’s RFK Stadium, which hosted soccer matches in the 1992 World Cup and the 1996 Olympics, was not a part of the bid as it is set to be demolished in 2021

In their announcement, the District boasts its experience in hosting events averaging over 20 million visitors a year. The city hopes its existing infrastructure of over 31,000 hotel rooms in the city, alternative transportation options (Metro bus and Rail), and access to three major international airports within an hour of the city’s center will help its chances in hosting tournament matches. 

Events DC Chairman Max Brown said the World Cup would serve as an “economic driver” for the city’s future with an estimated impact of $500 million and the creation of approximately 3,500 jobs.

The bid will face stiff challenges from other metropolitan areas, such as New York and Los Angeles, and local opposition as Baltimore is also in the running

The bid features four co-chairs with city ties, including Mark Ein, founder and CEO of Capital Investment Corporation and organizer of the Citi Open tennis tournament in Rock Creek Park. 

Other advisory board members include celebrity chef José Andrés, retired U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper, Brianna Scurry, D.C. United CEO Jason Levien and Washington Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan. 

“I could not think of a more vibrant, inclusive, or passionate soccer city to host FIFA World Cup matches in 2026,” D.C. United goalkeeper and Bid Co-Chair Bill Hamid said. 

“With our deep soccer roots and diversity, the culture of our city gives us our foundation to successfully highlight the matches and leave a lasting impact on the future of the game.” 

Bradley Beal will not play in Orlando

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy Photo/Washington Wizards

WASHINGTON – The speculation on whether or not Bradley Beal will play in Orlando is over after the Washington Wizards announced the All-NBA candidate would not play due to a shoulder injury.

The team departed for Orlando on Tuesday. Beal and sharpshooter Davis Bertans are the only Wizards who are not playing or joining the team for the rest of the 2020 campaign.

Beal was working day-to-day with the team to manage an injury (right rotator cuff) he’s been dealing with since the early stages of the season.

Even though the suspended season gave him some time to recover, it was not enough as his symptoms worsened during the long layoff, but he still rehabilitated intending to play.

After consultation from Wizards Chief of Athlete Care & Performance Daniel Medina, Wizards Orthopedist Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, Beal, and his representation, the decision was made.

“This was a difficult decision and one that I did not take lightly as the leader of this team,” Beal said. “I wanted to help my teammates compete for a playoff spot in Orlando, but also understand that this will be best for all of us in the long term. I appreciate the support of my teammates, the fans and the entire organization and look forward to returning next season to continue the progress we have made.”

The announcement comes a week after Beal said on a Zoom call with media last week that he was still dealing with nagging ailments from before the season was suspended but was still working out every day at the facility with the coaching staff. Beal also said that he was not swayed one way or another during the call on whether he would play or not.

“Bradley did everything possible to be ready to play, but after closely monitoring his individual workouts, we came to the conclusion that it was best for him to sit out the upcoming games in Orlando and avoid the risk of further injury,” said Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard.

“Although he was able to play through the majority of the season with the injury, the layoff from March until now did not leave any of us feeling comfortable that he would have enough time to be ready to perform at the extremely high level we are all accustomed to seeing and agreed that not participating in the games in Orlando was the right decision.”

The All-NBA candidate was averaging 30.5 points per game and trailed only James Harden (36.7 points per game) for the league scoring title. Beal also showed off his playmaking ability as a facilitator, contributing a career-high 6.1 assists per contest.

Beal tallied back-to-back 50-point outings in February with 53 points at Chicago and 55 vs. Milwaukee, joining an elite group of six to score back-to-back 50-point games and was the first to achieve the feat since the late Kobe Bryant did it in 2007.