On July 23rd, the Cleveland Indians shocked the baseball world when they announced they were changing their name to the Guardians. The name Indians had become controversial in the last few years along with the team’s logo. This lead to internal discussions in Cleveland about whether it was worth it to keep the name or if they should change it to something more inclusive for the city. Out of nowhere, they introduced the Guardians to the world, adding to the long list of teams that have changed their names in the last fifteen years. Here is a ranking of which teams did it the best and which ones dropped the ball.
7) Tampa Bay Rays
In 2008, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays decided to drop the word Devil from their name and rebrand as the Rays. The word devil was not well-liked by the fanbase and when new owner Stuart Sternberg took over he decided to get rid of it once and for all. The name was introduced to signify a new era for the team. The Rays were perennial losers and it was time for a fresh start for the franchise. The name Rays is not bad by itself, the team just could have been more creative when searching for a new name and they got rid of some of the best jerseys the MLB had to offer.
6) Winnipeg Jets
In 2011, the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnepeg and rebranded as the Jets. This name was drawn from the Winnipeg Jets who played in the NHL from 1979-1996. This team moved to Arizona and became the Coyotes who still play in the NHL. When it was decided that a team was returning to Winnipeg, there was really only one option for a name. The issue was that the name was not creative in the first place. The name was originally given because the owner of the team was a huge fan of the New York Jets. This was in the early 1970’s when Joe Montana was at the height of his fame so it would make sense why there were so many fans of his but as a professional sports team name, the Winnipeg franchise could have done better.
5) New Orleans Pelicans
In 2013, the New Orleans Hornets rebranded to the NBA as the Pelicans. The name was changed the same year the franchise drafted Anthony Davis first overall. This represented a new era for the franchise and a new name added to that feeling. The name Pelicans was picked because of the bird that is prevalent in the Louisiana area. It was also done to free up the name Hornets for Charlotte to take back. While the name Pelicans is unique, it is definitely not the first thing people think of when thinking about New Orleans. The team could have gone in many different directions but Pelicans was just an alright choice.
4) Oklahoma City Thunder
When the Seattle Supersonics moved to OKC in 2008, they needed to come up with a new name. After much consideration, the team decided to rebrand as the Thunder. This was due to the large number of storms that hit Oklahoma as it sits in Tornado Alley. While the reasoning is solid, the name goes down as it replaced one of the most beloved names in the NBA. The Supersonics with their gold and green was one of the league’s most popular franchises. For the first few years, it didn’t feel right seeing Kevin Durant play basketball in Blue and Orange. While the name might be appealing to new NBA fans, older fans can’t truly appreciate it because of what was left behind.
3) Cleveland Guardians
When controversy arose because of the Indian name and Chief Wahoo, it was only a matter of time before the franchise changed its name. After many internal discussions, the name Guardians was chosen. This was due to the statues that sit at the entrance to Cleveland to serve as guardians of the city. The new name was well received by residents of the city but outsiders had their doubts. Since the name is so new, it will be interesting to see how it is received once people learn the story behind it. It is also hard to judge a name before the jerseys are made and people can see it in action. As time goes on, it will be interesting to see how the name holds up in the MLB among some of the best names in sports.
2) Charlotte Hornets
In 2014, the Charlotte Bobcats changed their name back to the Hornets. When the Hornets left Charlotte to go to New Orleans, they took the name with them. This left the new Charlotte franchise without a name. When the Bobcats were introduced, it didn’t feel right from the beginning. When the New Orleans franchise rebranded to the Pelicans, the opportunity to right a wrong presented itself. The Bobcats wasted no time switching back to the Hornets within a year. The Charlotte Hornets got their name back from the days of Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bouges. In the past few years, they have even brought the pinstripe jerseys back, showing the world they made the right choice to bring back the Hornets name.
1) Washington Football Team
The best team name change on this list isn’t even a permanent one. For the last year, the Washington Football Team has been playing under this moniker as they search for a full-time name. Sports fans do not have to look far to find the inspiration for this name. Europe is littered with teams named Soccer Club or Basketball Club. FC Barcelona and Chelsea F.C are some of the biggest sports teams in the world. What is cool about Washington is they are the first American team to try this out. No other team in the big four sports uses a team name like this. Sometime in the next year, Washington will announce their full-time team name. Senators, Redhawks, and Skins are all in the running. No matter what Dan Snyder chooses, nothing will be as cool as the name Washington Football Team.