sportsfan7

Teams that Relocated but kept their Nickname

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Hello all, I figured I would rank the all of the franchises in major pro sports that relocated, but kept their nickname. There are 26 of these, but one franchise relocated twice with different nicknames (i.e. move and keep name, then move and change name, then move and keep name). I also decided that teams that relocated multiple times with the same nickname would count as one (i.e. move and keep name, move again and keep name). I ranked these teams 1-25 on how well the nickname translates to the new city and will be counting down over the next few days. I will start with the one team that I left unranked. Each franchise will have a write-up along with it, some are a few sentences, while some of the more interesting ones are a bit longer. Now for the first franchise.

 

Unranked

Boston Redskins → Washington Redskins
In an effort to steer clear of a MOD EDIT, the most controversial nickname in pro sports, which unsurprisingly has a controversial origin, will remain unranked. The team was founded in Boston as the Braves, named after the MLB team, whose stadium they played in. The team dropped the Braves moniker when they moved crosstown to Fenway Park after one year. Why the team picked Redskins is unclear. It was long hypothesized that it was to honor coach William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz. Dietz attended Chiloco Native American Boarding School, coached at Haskell Institute, and was married to a Ho-Chunk woman, but was himself White. He claimed to be Native American himself and his registering as one on his draft card piqued the attention of the FBI. Dietz was charged with identity theft (having assumed the name James One Star, an Oglala man who had been missing in Cuba for almost 20 years). The trial resulted in a hung jury after Dietz’s mom testified that her dead husband was Native American. He was later charged again and spent 30 days in jail. Dietz was only hired by Boston after being fired from Purdue for NCAA violations. Later in life, Dietz claimed to be a Sioux man, who had been born in South Dakota. His tombstone claims that he was born in South Dakota, despite his birth certificate saying Rice Lake, WI. Despite his almost certainly White ancestry, he is considered an Indian athlete by the team, and despite his controversial life, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Other theories on how the team acquired its moniker include that it was honoring a different Native American on the team, but no one is quite sure who, or that it was a combination of Braves, their old nickname, and Red Sox, their new landlords. Either way, the team kept the nickname after relocating to Boston. Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the controversy surrounding this name. Washington is not alone in its use of the moniker; it is believed that 47 high schools (including 2 with majority Native student bodies) in 19 states use the nickname for their athletic programs. A trademark for the nickname was revoked in 2014 after a lawsuit, but was restored in 2017 after an appeal to the US Supreme Court. The city of Washington DC has made clear that any move back into the city (the team currently plays in Landover, MD) will only be allowed after a name change. However, Washington owner Daniel Snyder has stated that “We'll never change the name ... It's that simple. NEVER - you can use caps”. Of course controversy is nothing new to the organization. The team was the last to integrate in the NFL, 16 years after the Rams, and only after the threat of federal intervention. So, who knows what the future holds.
 

TL;DR: The Redskins were either named after a White Man masquerading as a Native American, an unnamed Native player, or a cross between Braves and Red Sox. In order to avoid a MOD EDIT I decided not to rank it or give my opinion.

 

This is also far and away my longest section. Most are about a third of this size.

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25. New Orleans Jazz  → Utah Jazz
The Jazz spent their first 4 seasons in New Orleans and one could be mistaken for thinking the franchise name comes from this city's rich Jazz history. Instead the name allegedly comes from the Webster Dictionary definition “collective improvisation” which one of the founders liked. After a few bad seasons the team moved to Utah, a state with an even richer Jazz tradition. This name makes almost no sense in Utah, although it did inspire the double-z craze in the area.

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24. Minneapolis Lakers → Los Angeles Lakers
The team was kind of/sort of a descendant of the Detroit Gems when the Minneapolis Lakers were established. Since Minneapolis was located in “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” (actually 11,842) this name made perfect sense. When the storied franchise underwent a series of bad years, the team moved to LA. The low attendance in MN has been credited to the name Minneapolis, which appears to exclude St Paul and is the reason all major sports teams are called Minnesota. Anyway, once the team arrived in LA they were unwilling to give up the history of such a storied franchise (at the time they had won 5 of the 13 NBA championships, more than anyone else, and another one in the BAA), despite LA County only having 6 natural lakes and the entire state of California only having 110. This name is woefully out of place, but has some nice history behind it.
 

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1 hour ago, sportsfan7 said:

Unranked

Boston Redskins → Washington Redskins

They still changed their name since they aren't the Braves now. 

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1 hour ago, MJWalker45 said:

They still changed their name since they aren't the Braves now. 

Yes, but they kept the Redskins name when they moved from Boston to DC

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Minneapolis is also the City of Lakes, which plays with the Lakers’ name really nicely too.
 

Fun Fact: Vikings long time head coach, Bud Grant played for the Lakers, and won a championship with them...

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2 hours ago, Ark said:

Do you count the Tennessee Oilers?

Yeah, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for 'em. They were one of the teams that I kept moving up.

1 hour ago, chcarlson23 said:

Minneapolis is also the City of Lakes, which plays with the Lakers’ name really nicely too.
 

Fun Fact: Vikings long time head coach, Bud Grant played for the Lakers, and won a championship with them...

The man, the myth, the legend, Bud Grant. It takes a stud to wear a polo when its below 0 and you're 88.

dmrWTnm.png

 

Next up

23. Charlotte Hornets → New Orleans Hornets → New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
Quite possibly the complicated franchise on this list is the Hornets. Regardless of your feelings on whether the OG Charlotte Hornets are part of the same franchise as New Orleans or the Bobcats/Charlotte Hornets 2.0, for the purposes of this list I will consider them part of the Pelicans franchise. This is because they kept its nickname, players, coaches, and front office staff when they moved. The OG Charlotte Hornets were almost known as the Spirit, but after fans voiced objections to a name associated with the PTL Club, a controversial Evangelical TV Show, the team instituted a name-the-team contest. Hornets won, but it appears that the connection to British General Cornwallis’s quote that Charlotte was “a hornet’s nest of rebellion” was not discovered until later. However, there had been a minor league baseball team known as the Charlotte Hornets in 1892 and again from 1901-1972 and the WFL had a team known as the Charlotte Hornets for the second half of the ‘74 season and first half of the ‘75 season. These Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002 and temporarily relocated as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets to OKC after Hurricane Katrina. In 2013, New Orleans surrendered the name to Charlotte and hoped that Utah would do the same with the Jazz. After Utah refused, the team became known as the Pelicans. In 2004, the NBA had returned to Charlotte and had yet another name-the-team controversy. Flight had won the contest, but owner Bob Johnson rejected it, claiming that it was too abstract and cited his opposition to the Iraq War. Johnson decided on Bobcats, which just so happened to reference his name. After New Orleans surrendered the name, new Hornets owner Michael Jordan petitioned the league for a name change, which occurred in 2014. The Hornets never belonged in New Orleans to begin with and the name didn’t really apply in Louisiana, although their state insect is the honeybee.

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22. Brooklyn Dodgers → Los Angeles Dodgers
The franchise was founded in the American Association and played as the Atlantics, Grays, and Bridegrooms and (sort of) merged with the New York Metropolitans, before joining the National League as the Brooklyn Grooms. The team switched back to the Bridegrooms and then (sort of) merged again, this time with Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders. Yet another (sort of) merger, this time with the Baltimore Orioles, led to the nickname Superbas. The team then adopted Trolley Dodgers, then switched back to Superbas, then Robins, before adopting Dodgers. Most of these nicknames were only semi-official. The fans, press, and team would often change which ones they were using and for most of their life, the team’s official name was Brooklyn Base Ball Club. The Dodgers inspired the name of the Brooklyn Dodgers NFL team, who played 14 seasons before folding during WWII. Dodgers came from the trolleys that ran in Brooklyn that people would often have to “dodge”. The team kept this moniker upon arriving in LA, a city well-known for its public transportation, despite displacing 2 PCL teams, the Hollywood Stars and Los Angeles Angels (the Angels would be reborn as an AL team 5 years later). Dodgers doesn’t really make sense in LA, in fact it would be more suited for the Dodgers rivals in San Fran, where there is an actual Trolley system.
 

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21. Baltimore Bullets → Capital Bullets → Washington Bullets

After playing 2 years in Chicago, one as the Packers and one as the Zephyrs, the franchise relocated to Baltimore and adopted the moniker Bullets, after a folded NBA team. The original Baltimore Bullets played in the ABL, BAA, and NBA before folding, the most recent NBA team to do so. These Bullets were named after the Phoenix Shot Tower, also known as the Merchants’ Shot Tower and Old Baltimore Shot Tower. The team moved south to Landover and rebranded as the Capital Bullets, after the Capital Centre, where they played. The team rebranded again to the Washington Bullets after only one season. In ‘95 Bullets owner Abe Polin announced he wished to change the teams name because he felt Bullets was inappropriate given the high murder rate over the past few years and the assassination of his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The changed its name to Wizards, which has been derided for being inappropriate itself, as Grand Wizard is the name of the leader of the KKK. The nickname made sense in Baltimore and was ok in DC, but it was probably right for it to go.

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20. Baltimore Colts → Indianapolis Colts
The original Baltimore Colts began in the All-America Football Conference (sometimes mistakenly called the All-American Football Conference) after the Miami Seahawks relocated. They were named after the racehorses in the Preakness Stakes. Despite finishing dead last the year before, the Colts were able to finagle their way into a merger with the NFL (along with 4-time AAFC champion Cleveland Browns, and 4-time runner-up to the Browns, San Francisco 49ers). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the team folded after 1 season in the NFL. 3 seasons later a new Baltimore Colts franchise was born. This team was an expansion franchise despite a totally BS theory on their lineage. I’ll spare you the specifics (look up the History of the Baltimore Colts on Wiki for a better retelling), but it involves 1 relocation, 3 renamings, 2 franchises folding and being immediately replaced (one to help with Tax Evasion), 3 mergers, 3 teams outright folding, 2 traveling teams, and 5 different leagues. Regardless, the NFL considers the Colts 2.0 a separate franchise. The team moved to Indianapolis, slipping across State lines in the middle-of-the-night to avoid an Eminent Domain seizure, and there would never be any controversial NFL relocations involving Baltimore again. The team did leave behind their marching band however, which became the subject of the 30 for 30 The Band That Wouldn’t Die. As far as I can tell, there are horses in Indiana, but the area doesn’t have the horse racing and breeding traditions of Maryland and Baltimore.

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They Have Horses, Don't They?, in which Hoosiers stage a dance marathon to steal Baltimore's football team

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6 hours ago, sportsfan7 said:

The changed its name to Wizards, which has been derided for being inappropriate itself, as Grand Wizard is the name of the leader of the KKK.

Seems like a bit of a stretch

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3 hours ago, the admiral said:

They Have Horses, Don't They?, in which Hoosiers stage a dance marathon to steal Baltimore's football team

Funny thing is, Director Sydney Pollack actually is a Hoosier.

1 hour ago, ManillaToad said:
7 hours ago, sportsfan7 said:

The changed its name to Wizards, which has been derided for being inappropriate itself, as Grand Wizard is the name of the leader of the KKK.

Seems like a bit of a stretch

Eh, its on their Wiki, but I don't remember any big uproar. I figure if you're gonna change your name cause people find it inappropriate you should probably check that no one could think the new one is.

 

19. New York Nets → New Jersey Nets → Brooklyn Nets
Admittedly not much of a relocation, the franchise was founded in the ABA as the New York Americans before changing its name to the New Jersey Americans after the Knicks pressured arena managers in the City into blocking the Americans from playing there. After a season in Jersey and another on Long Island (but still under the name New Jersey) and a failed relocation to Newark, the team found yet another new arena on Long Island and moved in, changing their name to the New York Nets. Why the team chose Nets is a controversial subject. Some say that it is named after the net on the rim. Others say it was chosen because it rhymes with Mets and Jets. Others still say that it comes from the saying “net” as in “nothing but net”, an old version of “Kobe!”. The team was one of 4 merged into the NBA from the ABA and quickly moved back to New Jersey as the New Jersey Nets, but not without a lawsuit from the Knicks. In 1994, in an effort to fix their now poor image, the Nets nearly rebranded as the New Jersey Swamp Dragons. After receiving a unanimous stamp of approval from the rest of the league's owners, Nets part-owner David Gernstein had a change of heart and voted down the rebrand. After nearly a decade of flirting with Brooklyn, the Nets moved there in 2012 and became the Brooklyn Nets. Nets is a terrible nickname, but it still applies all over the Greater New York Area. But it’s no Swamp Dragons.
 

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10 hours ago, ManillaToad said:

Seems like a bit of a stretch

Second that. It would be a different story if they were the Grand Wizards or the White Wizards. The vast majority of people probably think of the magical wizard when seeing the team name.

 

In reference to the team using “Capital”, I actually like that more than “Washington”, but it seems like the team did it right with their G-League team “Capital City Go-Go”

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6 hours ago, DNAsports said:
16 hours ago, ManillaToad said:

Seems like a bit of a stretch

Second that. It would be a different story if they were the Grand Wizards or the White Wizards. The vast majority of people probably think of the magical wizard when seeing the team name.

 

In reference to the team using “Capital”, I actually like that more than “Washington”, but it seems like the team did it right with their G-League team “Capital City Go-Go”

Yeah, like I said earlier, I only mentioned it because they were replacing a controversial name, and it seems like want your new name to be fairly uncontroversial. The other names they considered were Express, Stallions, Dragons, and Sea Dogs. I would've liked Sea Dogs, it's fairly unique. As far as the G-League team, I like the use of Capital City, but "Go-Go", seriously. Its unique, but I would've liked Capital City Wizards, like the Bulls affiliate, Windy City Bulls.

 

18. Chicago Cardinals → St Louis Cardinals → Phoenix Cardinals → Arizona Cardinals
One of only 2 surviving members of the NFL’s first season (along with former cross-town rivals Chicago Bears, known as the Decatur Staleys at the time) the Cardinals have a complicated pre-NFL history. In 1898 a local amateur team was founded, Morgan Athletic Club. They changed their name to the Racine Normals and adopted the moniker Cardinals after buying faded University of Chicago Maroons jerseys, leading owner Chris O’Brien to (allegedly) exclaim, “That's not maroon; it's cardinal red!”. The team was known as the Racine Street Cardinals until they folded in 1906. In 1913 another team in Chicago was founded as the Racine Street Cardinals, but they mothballed the 1919 season and returned in 1920 as the Chicago Cardinals, founding member of the American Professional Football Association. The APFA renamed themselves the NFL in 1922. In 1944, the team merged with the Pittsburgh Steelers for a season as Card-Pitt. They moved to St Louis where they shared their name with the MLB team, but were colloquially known in the area as the Big Red, Football Cardinals, or GridBirds. The team later moved to Arizona and became known as the Phoenix Cardinals, despite playing in nearby Tempe on the Arizona State campus. The team eventually changed their identifier to Arizona. Cardinals is a solid nickname, but it should have been changed upon arrival in St Louis.
 

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17. New York Giants → San Francisco Giants
The franchise spent their first 3 years as the New York Gothams before changing their nickname to Giants, however most of the players on the first Gothams team had played for the Troy Trojans before their collapse. The source of the nickname is unknown; for a long time it was believed that it came from manager Jim Mutrie exclaiming, “My big fellows! My giants!” after beating the Phillies, however, it appears that the name Giants had been used to describe the team for most of the season up to that point. The team inspired the name of the New York Football Giants of the NFL. The team moved to San Francisco in conjunction with the move of their rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, to LA. The team displaced the PCL’s San Francisco Seals, but refused to adopt the popular moniker despite playing their first 2 seasons in Seals Park. The name is fairly generic and seems to transition decently to the Bay Area.

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16. Kansas City(-Omaha) Kings → Sacramento Kings

The Kings changed their name from Royals after arriving in KC-Omaha from Cincy, in order to avoid confusion with the MLB team. They kept the name after arriving in Sacramento despite the presence of the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL. Kings is generic enough to work in Sacramento, but I wish they would have changed it to avoid conflict with the Los Angeles Kings.

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15. Boston Braves → Milwaukee Braves → Atlanta Braves
Before being known as the Boston Braves, the oldest continuously operating pro sports franchise in America spent 40 years as the Red Stockings (so named because they were founded by 4 players from the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first openly professional baseball team, who had folded in the offseason), Red Caps, Beaneaters, Doves, and Rustlers, before settling on Braves in 1912, but they changed their name to the Bees in 1936 and switched back in 1941. The origins of the Braves nickname comes from their owner at the time. James Gaffney was a member of Tammany Hall, New York’s notoriously corrupt Democratic political machine, which used an Indian Chief as its logo (Tammany comes from Tammamend, the name of an Indian Chief). The team retained the logo after relocating to Milwaukee and later Atlanta. Bost states have significant Native American populations and history, much more than Boston.
 

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I think this is interesting and hopefully we can keep the philosophical disputes about whether teams should keep the names out of this.

 

Having the Jazz at the bottom makes total sense and the Lakers right behind makes sense, too.  I'm kinda surprised at the Hornets being below the Dodgers, though. Hornets seems like a "general" name whereas Dodgers, as you point out, isn't great for LA. (though it looks like you're making more about the franchise fit in New Orleans than simply the name), Without thinking of all of the 14 names you still have to go, I think you're already into the "general names" that work everywhere.  I tend to think Cardinals should probably be ranked higher since the name makes sense, even in the desert.  It certainly makes sense in St. Louis, so I am guessing your thought that they should have changed the name is based on the existence of the MLB team. 

 

I notice there are really only of a couple of truly egregious transfers (Jazz and Lakers and maybe Dodgers, though I'd argue the Oilers, who you've indicated are still going to be listed).  There's no way either of those would happen today...very few would. The Raiders is an exception because THE RAIDERS are a brand that goes beyond their city(ies) and means more to the NFL than, say the Jaguars brand does.

 

Curious as to whether North Stars-to-Stars will be included.  Everything about it makes sense and that franchise embraces it's Minnesota background. But you could also stick with the technicality that it's a different name.

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