The excitement over the Washington football team that returns as the reigning NFC East champions, piloted by up-and-coming signal caller Kirk Cousins, could push growing resentment over the team’s nickname back another season.

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) hands the ball off to running back Robert Kelley during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Buffalo Bills, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) hands the ball off to running back Robert Kelley during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Buffalo Bills, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington owner Daniel Snyder had been facing major pressure and backlash over the last few seasons as various social and racial groups have united in their demand for the team to change its name. The once-legendary franchise had seen their bottom fall out following losing seasons, lackluster play and a growing mass of people demanding that the team alter its nickname from “Redskins” to anything less offensive.

Washington Redskins running back Mack Brown (34) runs 60-yards for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter of an NFL preseason football game Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

With Washington tumbling down the standings and once-prized quarterback Robert Griffin III failing to repeat a historic rookie season, Washington was an easy target for protestors to take aim at. Last year’s 9-7 finish, however, along with a historic year from Cousins, breathed new life into a stagnant organization and finally placed Washington into a positive light outside of the name controversy. Now, fully resurrected with a team roster geared for another playoff appearance, the talk from the Washington camp this preseason has been centered around winning and not on the controversial issue of a name change.

Despite media polls and surveys intended to ease tension over the moniker, Snyder and the Washington franchise has been focused more on improving the team and its Super Bowl chances than appealing to the throng of offended football fans. It was easy to pile on Snyder while the team was floundering at the bottom of the NFC East. But with Washington expected by many to repeat as division champions, bolstered by a few big free agent acquisitions this summer, Snyder may be able sweep the backlash under the rug for another season if his team finds success on the field.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO