The beginning of the new Washington with the complexity of leaders in the past

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — When Washington takes the field Sunday against Jacksonville, the NFL franchise will play a game that is the leaders for the first time.

It’s the culmination of a rebranding process that has lasted more than two years and will coincide with pomp, circumstance and a reimagined fight song for a team looking to transcend their past. Although the organization is trying to revive its reputation, and coach Ron Rivera is trying to build a winning culture, scandals from the past continue to get in the way and impede that process.

Most notable is Congress’ ongoing investigation into workplace culture, including the imminent release of information from owner Dan Snyder’s nearly 11-hour testimonial that would cast a shadow over anything and everything on both the football and business sides. Team boss Jason Wright referred to them as “The Ghosts of Last Christmas” and expects to see progress after several months without one of them showing up.

With this looking like wishful thinking for the time being, the leaders are moving forward knowing it’s an uphill battle to get fans back into the stands and earn respect around the league.

“It goes in cycles,” Rivera said. “Does it make what I do more difficult? Yes, it really is because all those things that happened, that’s important. It is. But for me, as a football coach, what I have to do is make this team special as a football team on the football field and in the community “.

The pandemic has certainly overshadowed that effort, with the name changed from the Redskins to the Washington soccer team in the summer of 2020 due to the national reckoning of racism and pressure on sponsors to drop the old title after decades of criticism from Native American advocacy groups. Rivera, known for his community involvement on his previous leg with Carolina, lamented not being able to get out to the Washington area with players to interact with fans and cited that as the “next big thing” that might help.