Professional sports teams that changed their names without changing their city originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Washington football team has officially announced that a new name will accompany Burgundy & Gold on February 2. In less than a month, a new football identity will be forged in the national capital.
But when WFT unveils its new nickname, it won’t be the first professional sports team to do so without changing locations. Heck, they wouldn’t even be the first DC sports team to do that.
Several teams from the major North American sports leagues have decided to take different paths with their mascots for various reasons. Most recently, the Cleveland MLB team changed their name from Indians to Guardians. The new name just became official on November 19, 2021, so their first game as the Guardians will be on opening day 2022.
Here are a few other franchises that have changed names in the past, but have remained in their host cities:
1997: Washington Bullets -> Washington Wizards
Bullets / Wizards owner Abe Pollin decided to change his team’s name in 1995 after the name was associated with violent overtones amid the growing crime in Washington DC at the time.
Pollin held a contest for fans to vote on the new team name. The options were Wizards, Express, Stallions, Sea Dogs, and Dragons. The wizards ultimately won and the rest is history.
1999: Tennessee Oilers -> Tennessee Titans
When the Oilers moved to Tennessee after nearly 40 years in Houston, they kept the Oilers name. However, they quickly moved on to the Titans after two seasons and have been so ever since. In the first year using the Titans moniker, Tennessee went to the Super Bowl.
2006: The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim -> the Ducks of Anaheim
It’s not a huge change, but the Anaheim Ducks completely rebranded their look and won a Stanley Cup right after. Not too bad, although we all miss the iconic Mighty Ducks look.
2008: Tampa Bay Devil’s Rays -> Tampa Bay Rays
In an attempt to reinvent themselves, the Rays dropped the “Devil” part of their name and immediately won a pennant. The mid-2000s wasn’t a bad time to rebrand.
2013: New Orleans Hornets -> New Orleans Pelicans
Under new ownership, the Hornets changed their name to the Pelicans as they embarked on a new era led by Anthony Davis. It also allowed our next franchise to reclaim its rightful name.
2014: Charlotte Bobcats -> Charlotte Hornets
When the Hornets moved to New Orleans and Charlotte created another team called the Bobcats, it didn’t look right. So when the Pelicans renamed themselves, the Hornets name was up for grabs and Charlotte wasted no time in taking it back.
2020: Washington Redskins -> Washington Soccer Team
Burgundy & Gold officially dropped the controversial ‘Redskins’ nickname in July 2020 after widespread pressure from activists and sponsors. After 88 years with just one name, football in DC has changed forever. Their first season with the new name was a good one, as Ron Rivera led the team to an NFC East title.
2021: Cleveland Indians – Cleveland Guardians
After more than a century as Indians, the Cleveland MLB team dropped the name in December 2020. When the professional baseball season begins in 2022, the Guardians will take the field in Ohio. The last game the team played against the Indians was good. They beat the Texas Rangers 6-0 on October 3, 2021.
2022: Washington Football Team -> ???
And here we are. The organization will announce its new name on February 2 of this year. While we don’t know what the new name will be, we do know for sure that one fan favorite in particular – the Wolves / Redwolves – is officially OUT. Several other nicknames, like Redtails and Commanders, have been suggested as possibilities, but we won’t know until the day comes. No final list has been announced. Whatever the new name, winning games is probably the one thing that will really win fans over.