The team’s former identity was one of the most well-known — and controversial — in all of sports. The organization started play in 1932, not in Washington, but in Boston. Originally the team played under the name Boston Braves. This only lasted for one season, as the longtime moniker was adopted in 1933, sticking with the team upon their relocation south to Washington D.C., until it was abandoned ahead of the 2020 NFL season (via Pro Football Reference).
One story for how the original name was selected was that it was intended to honor the team’s then-head-coach William “Lone Star” Dietz. Dietz claimed Native American heritage, but this has been called into question over the years. According to ESPN, Dietz was sent to jail for falsifying Native American heritage in an effort to avoid being drafted into World War I.
A post to the Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog offers a different explanation. Citing an article in the Washington Post by columnist Robert McCartney, it explains that a newspaper article from 1933 — the year the team’s name was switched from Braves to “Redskins” — quotes team owner George Preston Marshall as saying that the name was meant to differentiate the team from Major League Baseball’s Boston Braves, with whom the team shared a stadium in 1932. Football and baseball teams with shared names were somewhat common in the era, but upon their move to Fenway Park in 1933, the new name was adopted.