News & Politics

What Would You Rename the Wizards?

Just think—we could have been the Stallions. Or the Sea Dogs?

For a city obsessed with political correctness, Washington offends a lot of people with sports-franchise names. Native Americans have lobbied for years to change the name of the Redskins, which some consider a racial slur. Now Wizards owner Ted Leonsis finds himself in a similar thicket. After Leonsis acknowledged he was thinking of changing the basketball team’s name back to the Bullets, its moniker until 1997, sports blogs and radio call-in shows lit up.

The Washington Post published its opposition to the move in an editorial, arguing that late team owner Abe Pollin had dropped the Bullets name because “he believed it was repugnant to countenance—much less cheer—a team called the Bullets when the city was awash in the violence caused by guns.”

Leonsis has put off the decision for now, but he does plan to bring back the Bullets’ red-white-and-blue team colors.

Controversy, though, is likely to follow any name change. Here’s how the team logo—and the editorial attacks it could generate—might look if executives had chosen one of the other four finalists from the selection process that produced the Wizards name in 1997.

The Sea Dogs. “Sea dogs” is just another term for pirates. And although the phrase might call to mind the harmless swashbucklers whom kids honor on Halloween, anyone who has shipped dry goods through the Gulf of Aden understands the less endearing features of modern-day piracy. Ted, consider this: Armed pirates, operating primarily off the Horn of Africa, hijacked 39 ships and took 773 hostages in the first nine months of 2010 alone.

The Express. Speeding-related traffic accidents in the United States take 13,000 lives and cost more than $40 billion annually. The District, Maryland, and Virginia all have programs aimed at curbing aggressive driving, yet Leonsis—an Internet pioneer—continues to jam his high-speed agenda down the throats of impressionable sports fans. Get your head out of the sand, Ted. Put the brakes on the Express. 

The Dragons. Leonsis’s support for China was easier to stomach when the People’s Republic was just another human-rights violator. But after surpassing Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy—continuing to swindle American exporters by artificially devaluing its currency and ratcheting up tensions with US allies in Asia—China has emerged as the 21st century’s most menacing threat to peace. Ted, forget your love of all things Chinese. The Washington Commies would have been unacceptable in 1962; the Washington Dragons are unacceptable today.

The Stallions. After the strides our society has made over the past half century to root out gender discrimination, it would be nice to think an elementary-school-age girl could cheer on her hometown basketball team without being force-fed an agenda of male domination. Ted, the name Stallions—or unneutered male horses—does nothing but instruct young female fans that they just aren’t welcome at the highest levels of competition.

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Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.