Back to Bullets – A Bad Call?


October 29, 2010
Ceci Ferrara
Sports Writer
Sports Leader Board

Recently, there has been controversy surrounding the Washington Wizards and it hasn’t just been due to the antics of troubled guard Gilbert Arenas. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has stated on a conspicuous list on his blog, “Ted’s Take”, that changing the name of the team back to the Bullets is “under consideration.”

The first name change took place in 1995 under then-owner Abe Pollin, who felt that the name Bullets had acquired violent overtones that made him rather uneasy. With a growing crime rate in the city and a personal loss due to gun violence, Pollin knew it was truly time for change and initiated a public contest for a new team name. The finalists included the Sea Dogs, Stallions and Dragons, with the Wizards prevailing.  The new Wizards name debuted on May 15, 1997.

The new name has been met with criticism, both because of the racial overtones it carries (Wizard is a rank in the KKK; Washington, DC is a predominantly African American city.), and because it is not a name that carries much gravitas or implies much strength. Despite the “Washington Wizards” alliteration, the name doesn’t make much of an impact. But one has to wonder, in a city plagued by violence and a high homicide rate, is renaming the team the Bullets the best game plan?

Leonsis took to his blog to address the discussion regarding the possible name change. Leonsis said, “We haven’t changed the name. We haven’t made a decision. We haven’t done any work on it. It is “under consideration,” because of the volume of emails that argue both sides of the debate. He went on to say that it was not at the top of his priority list, stating simply, “this is not a decision that I need to focus on.” Leonsis focuses largely on the Washington Post’s coverage of this topic and concluded by remarking that “I believe this has all been blown out of proportion.”

In Dupont Circle’s popular Public Bar, Wizards fans and District residents alike had a lot to say about the possible name change. A few college students waiting for drinks at the bar had mixed thoughts. “I think it’s a bad idea,” one girl said, though admittedly based her answer solely on “the amount of violence in the city” not any impact it would have on the team. Her male friend however, Matt Boemio, a college junior and self-processed die-hard Wizards fan, had a different take. “The name doesn’t matter to me at all, only how well they can play.”

David Thomas, a Delaware transplant who has been interested in the DC sports scene since his college days at Howard, had much to say about the possible name change: “There was obviously a reason they changed the name to begin with. Why would you go back to something that had a negative connotation? In a city already plagued by violence, it seems pointless.” He went on to stress that sports should be something positive, and not promote anything negative. “Sports are a positive outlet and alternative to things like violence or crime. Sports teams and athletes alike should represent a positive message,” he remarked.

While the name is not as important for some as the team’s level of play, there is no debate that its name represents what the team stands for; one has to wonder if Bullets is truly the best representation. While Wizards may not be the most impressive team name, it seems much less controversial than its alternative. Ideally, this topic should not be something that is black and white. Perhaps there is a third option out there, and Leonsis, who is very receptive to fan input, will ask the fans to come up with a new name.  Pollin found this option to be helpful and an excellent marketing took in the 1990s. Yet, that remains to be seen, and it’s likely the debate will continue until a decision, one way or the other, is made.

While Leonsis is right, there is much discussion for both sides, one thing is clear: a team’s name should be something for fans to cheer for, not argue about.

Sports Roundup

MLB:  The championship series’ for the American and National League are in full swing, with the Texas Rangers enjoying their first postseason berth, matched up against the veteran New York Yankees. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants are putting up a hard fight against the favored Philadelphia Phillies. If it goes to seven games, the 2010 World Champions will be victorious no later than November 4.

NFL:  While at the top of their NFC East Division through week 5, due to a hard-fought Oct 17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Washington Redskins fell to third place, behind the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively. Their long-time rivals the Dallas Cowboys fell to 4-1 in Week 6 [they had a bye in Week 4]after a loss to Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings. Only 3% of teams have started the season 1-4 and come back to make the playoffs. Other teams that have either one or no wins this season include:  the Buffalo Bills (0-5), Cleveland Browns (1-5), the Detroit Lions (0-5) and the San Francisco 49ers (1-5).

NBA:  The Washington Wizards played their first home game Oct 12 against the Atlanta Hawks, with their season opener set for October 28 in Orlando. Wizards star Gilbert Arenas was fined $50,000 for feigning a knee injury; it is believed he faked this injury so he would not have to start a preseason game in Atlanta. All eyes will be on rookie and number one draft pick John Wall throughout the season, with the hopes that he will be able to make the Wizards a competitive team. It will especially be interesting to see them face off against the trifecta of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh when they play the Miami Heat this season.

NHL:  The 2010-2011 Hockey season is in full swing, the Washington Capitals are off to an impressive 4-1 start. New additions this season for the Capitals include:  rookie goaltender Phillip Grubauer and Matt Hendricks, an ice hockey forward who played for the Colorado Avalanche last season.  Hendricks has been a strong addition to the roster thus far. Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis served as co-chair of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver (EKS) Challenge which was held on the Washington Mall on October 23.


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