The Washington Redskins, under mounting pressure from the outside, will consider changing the team’s name. Team owner Daniel Snyder is reviewing the team’s name while considering possible replacements, and lists detailing new possible names for Washington’s franchise have already been created, including this one by CBS Sports NFL writer Jared Dubin.
Although Washington would become the first NFL team this century to change names, they wouldn’t be the first franchise to do so. In fact, more than a fourth of today’s NFL teams changed names at some point during their existence. Here’s a look at the notable NFL team name changes that have taken place over the years.
Boston Braves became Washington Redskins
After just one year as the Braves, the franchise was renamed to the Redskins in 1933, four years before the team moved from Boston to Washington. The reason for the name change was simple: Boston’s new coach, Lone Star Dietz, and several of his Native American players disliked the name Braves and lobbied for the team to change its name to the Redskins. The franchise has kept the Redskins as its name until now.
Upon moving his team from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996, then-team-owner Art Modell decided to host a contest to determine the franchise’s new name. After whittling their options down to three names, the Ravens — an ode to the late poet Edgar Allan Poe — beat out the Americans and Marauders. The franchise not only changed its name but it also retired all of the franchise’s old records from its time in Cleveland. Those records were transferred over to Cleveland’s expansion team in 1999, which called themselves the Browns.
One of the AFL’s first franchises, the Dallas Texans, led by Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram, won the league title in 1962. But despite their on-field success, the Texans were struggling to attract large crowds, as the team was competing with the crosstown Cowboys for fans. With his team struggling to make ends meet, team owner Lamar Hunt moved the franchise to Kansas City, where it changed its team name to the Chiefs. The franchise continued its winning ways in its new city, capturing a second AFL title in 1966 before becoming the second AFL team to win the Super Bowl at the end of the 1969 season.
The Bears’ original name was the Staleys, named after Augustus Staley, the team’s original owner and founder. After playing their inaugural season in Decatur, Staley and coach George Halas agreed to have the team play games in Chicago in order to draw bigger crowds, securing a lease with Wrigley Field. The Chicago Staleys had immediate success in their new home, winning the franchise’s first championship in 1921. The following season, Halas, following Staley’s departure from the organization, renamed the franchise the Bears, which has remained the team’s name over the past 98 years.
The AFL’s first champion, the Oilers won back-to-back titles before losing in the AFL championship to the Dallas Texans in 1962. The Oilers made the playoffs 12 more times (including three trips to the conference title game) before the franchise moved from Houston to Nashville in 1997. The franchise kept its team name until 1999 when then-owner Bud Adams picked the name Titans among a list of options. The Titans enjoyed immediate success, advancing to the franchise’s first Super Bowl that season.
New York’s AFL team, founded in 1960, was named the Titans because owner Harry Wismer believed that titans were superior to the Giants, the city’s established pro football team. The Titans were anything but superior, however, as the franchise lost money while failing to post a winning season during its first three seasons. Things turned around in 1963 when Sonny Werblin headed a group that bought the franchise. That year, Werblin changed the team’s colors to green and white in honor of his St. Patrick’s Day birthday. He also renamed the team the Jets in honor of the America’s space age. Fittingly, the same year Neil Armstrong became the first man to land on the moon, the Jets became the first AFL team to win the Super Bowl, as Joe Namath and his teammates shocked the Colts in Super Bowl III.
Team founder Art Rooney initially gave his team the same name as Pittsburgh’s baseball team. But after seven unsuccessful years as the Pirates, Rooney — after promoting a “name the team contest” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — chose to rename his team the Steelers. Outside of two seasons, the franchise has continued to be referred to as the Steelers, an ode to Pittsburgh’s steel mill history.
During World War II, the Eagles and Steelers merged together for one season. Known as the Steagles, the team went 5-4-1 during the 1943 season. The Eagles returned to their original form the following season, while the Steelers merged with the Chicago Cardinals for a year before venturing back out on their own in 1945.
Portsmouth Spartans became Detroit Lions
Despite their on-field success (the Spartans posted an 11-3 record in 1932, their second season), the franchise was struggling financially after four seasons. in 1934, a group that was headlined by radio executive George Richards purchased the franchise for $8,000. Richards immediately moved the franchise to Detroit where he renamed the team the Lions, an ode to the city’s baseball team, the Tigers.