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Commanders Coach: T-shirt Kerfuffle ‘Was a Great Lesson for Me’

Commanders coach Dan Quinn held a press conference yesterday — his first media availability since Saturday, when he raised eyebrows by wearing a bootleg T-shirt with a Commanders/’Skins mash-up logo (as shown above).

Per Nicki Jhabvala, who covers the team for The Washington Post, Quinn had this to say yesterday:

“I think one of the parts of me taking this job, I was excited to bridge the past and the present. What a cool privilege that is to do. I also recognize there’s a lot of layers to that. So, it was a great lesson for me. What I really hate is that any attention that would’ve been taken away from these rookies [at rookie minicamp] and this awesome crew. Nobody wants to do that.”

The team has had no comment. That, combined with Quinn’s quote, leaves several questions unanswered:

  • Where or how did Quinn acquire the shirt?
  • Given his quote about not wanting to take attention away from the rookies, did he really think the shirt would not attract attention? Or to put it another way, was he so unaware of the heated controversy regarding the team’s identity that he didn’t realize that the shirt would be viewed as a provocative gesture?
  • Would he be in favor of the team adopting this logo on a full-time basis?
  • Has ownership, which has been consistent about not wanting to revive the team’s old name, spoken to him about the T-shirt?
  • Has the NFL fined or reprimanded him for wearing unauthorized/unlicensed apparel?
  • What exactly is the “great lesson” that he’s learned from this experience?

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, citing some insider knowledge, gave this analysis of the situation after Quinn’s latest comments:

The simple reality is that Quinn: (1) reasonably believed it would be OK with management to wear the T-shirt; (2) deliberately defied their perceived wishes; or (3) failed to read the room properly. Each option is a problem. Our guess, based on things we’ve heard about the organizational reaction, is that it’s No. 3.

Let’s please not relitigate the team’s name while discussing Quinn’s choice to wear an unauthorized T-shirt, since that debate (a) is already settled and (b) brings out the best in nobody. Thanks.


Comments (51)

    I think any NFL head coach wearing a bootleg T-shirt is WILD even if it wasn’t connected to something controversial. I can’t get my head around this at all.

    Maybe a local designer or printship etc sent coach a free tee and he wore it because he like it? Far fetched?

    The only thing similar I can think of is when Matt Patricia wore a T-shirt with Roger Goodell’s face on it in clown makeup while he was Patriots D coordinator, and Patricia only wore that on a team flight, not a press conference. (link)

    In Detroit, Dan Campbell wears non-NFL branded shirts all the time while on the job. His most famous is the “GRIT” shirts he wears quite often during Training Camp. And even during the Draft the entire front office staff wore shirts that said “Positional Villain”, which aren’t NFL branded.
    So I think the Coaches may only be held to the “NFL issued gear only” rule on Game Days

    hello Tigers Fan,
    thank you for bringing this up because I was always curious about ‘GRIT’. I thought the nfl took that over and was selling it. All the grit hats and hoodies at Lions games aren’t through nfl merchandising?

    So just where did this shirt come from? Nobody seems to know…………….

    See my comment below. The shirt is available on the popular t-shirt website Breaking T. link

    While that t-shirt looks similar, I don’t think that’s the specific one Quinn wore. Note that this t-shirt doesn’t use the team’s current logo, but a royalty-free facsimile of it, but Quinn’s shirt does use the team’s current logo.

    I’m not a Washington fan, but if I was Id be totally wearing that shirt to games. Anybody try google lens to find it?

    The team’s fanbase is fractured. Here in the DMV, I see very few folks wearing Commanders gear. But that could be symptomatic of the lousy results of the team on the field year after year, as much as it is fans feeling alienated after ownership dropped the Redskins name.

    My guess is Quinn liked the shirt and didn’t think it was a big deal. -C.

    Part of that is politics, but I bet the largest part of it is the absolutely lame name and logo they chose. Commanders? At best, it’s generic. At worst, it sounds like a reference to a Margaret Atwood novel.

    it’s the same in Cleveland. Spattering of people wearing Guardians gear, but whenever i see someone in public if they’re over 15-20 it’s Indians and under it’s Guardians. I think it’s more a function of a shitty new name for each team, with still a lot of people unwilling to call the team their new name. I can’t lie, I still call them their former name or the Tribe. It was the name for 35+ years for me as a fan, when Guardians is 35+ I’ll relent and call them that.

    As for the feathers on the W logo….much ado about nothing. The great reckoning of 2020 has subsided and many people are seeing that it’s never enough and once a group gets people to change something they can’t forget how great it feels and they keep going wanting more changed. People outside of the same circles you see on the internet, twitter, reddit, etc are realizing this.

    My bad…wasn’t trying to start anything back up that’s my opinion and i shouldn’t be speaking for others and I realized i wasn’t following Paul’s request. Sorry man!

    As a fan of an AL Central team, who keeps an eye on the standings, I actually really like the guardians double g baseball logo with wings and font. single tone ‘c’ hats are sharp also.

    Interesting, I just noticed this last night when looking at the mlb standings on my phone. The logos are necessarily tiny in this format and only a few (Guardians, Orioles, Jays) had logos that were more than just letters or letters in a circle.

    Quinn has been around the NFL a long time. He had to know that wearing a non Nike and non NFL sanctioned shirt would cause issues even without the naming controversy. He’s being intentionally obtuse.

    The shirt is available on Breaking T. It is a popular t-shirt company that has licenses with the MLBPA and I’m assuming the NFL player’s association. They do not have a license with the NFL as far as I know. The only reason I know this is because the day after I read your first article about this, there was an ad on my Facebook timeline for the shirt. Here is the shirt: link

    Perhaps a small irony is the CEO of breaking T was selling “Football Team” t-shirts on his blog 10 years ago

    The shirt in the link you shared is not the same as the one Quinn is wearing. The one you linked just has the W with the feathers. Quinn’s shirt also has the word “Commanders” below the logo. I don’t see that style of shirt on Breaking T’s web site. Is it possible there are at least TWO companies producing shirts featuring this “feathered W” logo?

    You are correct. I noticed that after I posted the comment. Maybe I’m misremembering it, but I swear it was exactly like the one he wore a couple days ago when I saw it the first time. They either changed it to evade the NFL’s lawyers or I just misremembered what I saw earlier.

    He made a mistake and is going to learn from it, hopefully. Let’s give him a chance to do that.

    He’s a football coach, who is focused on football. He grabbed a shirt that he liked. He acknowledges you don’t like it. Back to football.

    The idea of Dan Quinn buying himself a bootleg Commanders shirt on Etsy is very funny to me. If things go badly this year and he gets fired, everyone is going to go back to this shirt as when it started going downhill.

    Occam’s Razor: He is a grown man, around the game for decades and familiar with the elimination of the old name. With stacks of team apparel in the locker room from which to choose, he chose a shirt not from the “sanctioned” pile. He brought it with him or it was sent to him at Washington facility. Grownups choose our own clothes. It was a conscious choice.

    This was premeditated. It’s for the parties to clean up the incident as they see fit. Don’t think too deep. Simplest reason is usually correct.

    Just did a Google search of “Commanders tshirt feathers” and found several sites now selling this shirt – of course, most of them are marketed as “Dan Quinn Commanders Shirt”, so likely came after the fact.

    At least twenty years ago, some enterprising individual sold a bunch of maroon t-shirts with a yellow football on it and the words “Washington NFL”. What would I give to have one right now.

    Besides the obvious bad judgment by him, this does point out the poor job of selecting this new name. It’s unfortunate that this was done by the previous owner. I was hoping that the new ownership group would address this, and do a do-over.

    When i was born, 20% of all sports team names were not to my liking

    Why havent they been changed yet? Its how the world works right?

    He should have worn that shirt that has a picture of a football on it – but in big logo letters says “BASEBALL”

    Then why are you wasting your time on a website like this one?

    Yes, it’s true — we’re not curing cancer here. Are there more important issues in the world? Yes.

    But is this an interesting a uni-relevant story? Also yes.

    I think they are saying Quinn has, “more important things to worry about”. It sounds like an opinion regarding coach, not a slight aimed at your story.

    Seriously, way to assume the best intent of loyal readers. I read it as “Washington is really bad and he needs to get to the football.”

    Here’s why I see Quinn’s shirt malarkey as a big deal, and one that has nothing to do with the nature or the team’s previous identity.

    Quinn is not just “a football coach.” My neighbor down the street who teaches elementary school PE and also coaches peewee football in the neighborhood park, he’s “a football coach.” Quinn is a senior executive officer of a major international corporation. He’s a C-level executive at an elite level, and his primary duties and responsibilities extend well beyond the sideline and locker room. Most NFL teams have well-established brand identities; his team does not. One of his team’s highest strategic priorities as a money-making enterprise is establishing and building its brand identity and fostering increased fan/customer loyalty to that brand. Quinn, if he’s qualified to coach at this level, should be expected to know that and understand his team’s corporate and financial priorities.

    Similarly, you know what almost never happens? A coach of a team with a beverage sponsor showing up at a press conference with a visibly branded bottle of a beverage from a competitor to the team’s sponsor. That happens so rarely that when it does, it usually earns a lead-article or Ticker mention here. Why? Because elite coaches understand that part of their job requires them to play along with the team’s financial interest in the sponsorship/advertising relationship, so you bring the Gatorade bottle to your press conference no matter how much you prefer Powerade. The shirt thing is exactly analogous to that. Screwing around with and undermining one of the team’s top corporate strategic priorities isn’t beside the point of Quinn’s job, it violates a core element of the duties of his job. I’m not saying it’s a firing offense, but neither is it No Big Deal. It’s a Big Deal in a way that speaks very poorly of his fitness to coach at the highest pro level, and while I would not fire him if I managed the Commies – the way things seem to have played out seems exactly right to me – neither would I be inclined to hire him anytime soon if I managed any other NFL team. Wearing the shirt wasn’t an accident, it was a statement, and it was a statement that speaks to a profound level of unprofessionalism and misunderstanding of the job of an elite pro coach.

    Well, if Florio says that, And we all know he’s the mouthpiece of the NFL, it must be true.

    But seriously, if he has insider information, there is one comment. Yet he discussrs an option of three. So why does he say anything in the first place.

    I’m going to respect Paul’s wishes and not bring up the overall name change stuff here (though I must admit, some of these comments really make me want to) but I’m going to call out generally that Quinn is absolutely full of it to imply the he didn’t think the shirt would garner attention. My senior citizen aunt, who despises football and the NFL knows about that story. Quinn knew exactly what he was doing here, and exactly the portion of the fanbase and football community he was trying to appeal to.

    Brian you said exactly what i wanted to say. He knew what he was doing and what base he was catering to. It’s sickening.

    I will respect Paul’s wishes not only because he’s my guy but because this is his platform. Although I want to respond to some people, including the guy that said he is here in the DMV but I won’t because Paul asked us not to.

    What i will say though is that, Quinn knew what he was doing. He was trying to feed a base. A base that cares not about others feelings or mental well being. Quinn was speaking to and for those people with the shirt which to me is sickening.

    The name Redtails was RIGHT there (maybe??) I feel the fanbase would have been more comfortable with the name change to Redtails then the have been with the Commanders

    Maybe too many teams already used/trademarked it, and WFT did not want a Vegas Golden Knights situation on their hands. Maybe even George Lucas might have wanted a piece of the action for all we know. I think they need to rebrand to something good that isn’t related to the old name. IMO, both the Titans and the Texans feel like weak branding (even though Jets used to be Titans and Chiefs used to be Texans) but that’s probably due to their lack of success in the Super Bowl, Houston Texans having never played in one yet. Yankees and Cowboys are names that are simply awesome; what are other awesome names WFT can choose? I am sure there has to be at least one.

    The comparison to Dan Campbell’s shirts is not the same thing in my opinion. Those shirts at the very least, I can somewhat safely assume, are team issued. I’ve seen other teams wear team specific slogans or mantras if you will, again the difference is that the whole team wears them. On draft day, it was mentioned that the whole Detroit organization wore the shirt. So even if said shirt was offensive, Campbell could say that it was a team decision to wear it. Then even if it was found to be “wrong”, he could assume organizational support. The situation with Quinn is not that.

    They got folks talking about the brand. Mission Accomplished.

    What did Dan learn?
    That there will always be Those Who Don’t Get It…
    He was wearing a William Mary/Washington mashup T-shirt…
    And it was offensive enough to be posted millions of times online for days now, including numerous times on this site…
    All with no blurring or disclaimers or banning the racist imagery….


    After reading the first post about this incident, I happened upon a dictionary from the 1960’s. I looked up the R word that was removed as the team moniker and the definition said something about “offensive slang.” Even back then they knew. Why the hesitation on change? Why the surprise that any reference toward that is offensive?

    He knows very well what he did by wearing this shirt, even if he denies it. His message is: do not listen to me or trust what I say, just look at what I wear. That tells you all you need to know about me and what I stand for. No more questions? Thank you.

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