It is no secret that the Washington Football Team has understandably faced their fair share of media scrutiny throughout this year; the team finally decided to separate themselves from their old Redskins team name only after large corporations, like Fedex, Nike and PepsiCo threatened to pull their sponsorships, owner Dan Snyder couldn’t come up with any better solution than to simply delay the choosing of a new team name and using the “Washington Football Team” until a decision is made, and reports of sexual harassment allegations in the organization surfaced this year as well.
However, despite the Washington Football Team’s blatant front office issues stemming from ownership, the team actually appears to me making strides in the right direction. Yesterday, August 17, the team hired thirty eight year old Jason Wright, a former NFL running back, as team president, making Wright the first African American team president in the history of the NFL, as well as the youngest ever team president and the fourth ever player to serve in this role.
Following his time in the NFL from 2004-2011, Wright went back to school to earn his MBA from the University of Chicago. He worked at international consulting firm McKinsey & Company as a partner in Operations Practice, and is also a trustee for the Union Theological Seminary, where he assists the institution in better equipping its students with skills in entrepreneurship and community organization.
“If I could custom design a leader for this important time in our history, it would be Jason. His experience as a former player, coupled with his business acumen, gives him a perspective that is unrivaled in the league,” says Snyder of his new team president. “Jason has a proven track record in helping businesses transform culturally, operationally and financially. He is a proactive and assertive advocate for inclusion of all people and will set new standards for our organization, and for the league.”
“I think first and foremost it’s obviously very personal for me,” Wright said about the hire. “[I] played a decent amount of time in the league and then became a businessman and cut my teeth in some of the best business schools. I have been helping some of the most complex and important organizations around the world transform over the last few years, so for me it’s personal and an opportunity to bring together my two worlds in a really unique way, at a unique time. The fact that I happen to be Black and the most qualified person for this is a boost.”
Wright will not only have to worry about transforming the lowly Washington Football Team back into a winning franchise, but will also be responsible for revamping the front office culture to rid it of sexist practices that have plagued the team in the past. “It’s a culture transformation first,” Wright acknowledges, “to make sure that we have an organization that people want to be a part of.” Wright knows that when it comes to the team, and with that eventually choosing a new team name, “It’s much more than choosing a new name. It’s a new identity, a new way of engaging with the world.”
Wright knows that he is facing a massive challenge, as he has to both rebuild a football team as well as a football team culture. But Wright is young and ambitious, which is what a stalling franchise like Washington needs. Any organization can’t expect to rid itself of toxic behavior if it doesn’t choose to bring in people with differing backgrounds and perspectives. Wright has one of the most unique perspectives of all team presidents around the league, and as a young African American with experience as an NFL player and as a high level executive, it appears as if he may be the perfect individual to begin to revamp the Washington Football Team.