In this modern age we are constantly hit with the idea of brand loyalty. How will customers, or fans, be able to make that connection with a company or team without continuity in a name? While Green Bay has always been the Packers, not every team has always played under the name they have today.
The Chicago Bears started out as the Decatur Staleys. The Decatur Staleys? Try picturing fans nowadays cheering for the mighty Decatur Staleys.
When the AFL came about in 1960 the New York team was the New York Titans. After two unproductive seasons, the new ownership changed the name to the New York Jets. Years later, Titans would resurface in the NFL when Tennessee changed its name from Oilers to Titans after moving from Houston to Nashville (with a brief stay in Memphis as the Tennessee Oilers).
In 1983, the USFL had a franchise start in Boston, Massachusetts as the Boston Breakers. In 1984 they moved to New Orleans and became the New Orleans Breakers, followed by a move in 1985 to Portland, Oregon and another name change; this time to the Portland Breakers.
The mid-70’s World Footbal League ‘s New York Stars relocated to Charlotte North Carolina, played one game as the Charlotte Stars before changing their name to the Charlotte Hornets over a decade before the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets came along.
The Kansas City Chiefs have some of the most vocal and loyal fans in the NFL, few of them were there to cheer the team when they were first known as the Dallas Texans. The NFL would again bring back a previously used AFL name when the expansion Houston franchise took the name of Texans in 2002.
The name game is also prevalent in the Canadian Football League. The most extreme CFL example would be the Montreal Alouettes. The Alouettes played in the CFL from 1946 until the team ceased to exist in 1981. In 1982 a new Montreal football team joined the CFL, the Montreal Concordes. Two years later the Concordes renamed themselves the Alouettes before going out of business themselves not long after. The saga of the Alouettes doesn’t end there. The CFL had a short lived franchise in the American city of Baltimore which debuted as the Baltimore Colts, and then due to litigation changed its name to the Baltimore CFL Colts and the Baltimore CFLers, before finally settling on the Baltimore Stallions. When the NFL announced the Cleveland Browns would be relocating to Baltimore and becoming the Ravens, the ownership of the Baltimore Stallions moved the team to Montreal and became the latest incarnation of the Montreal Alouettes.
The Arizona Cardinals, back in the time they played in Chicago, were known early on as the Racine Normals.
Originally playing football as the Portsmouth Spartans, the Detroit Lions would go on to become one of the oldest NFL franchises.
Playing their first games as the Boston Patriots, the team changed its geographic name to New England without even moving. Not unheard of, the Phoenix Cardinals similarly became the Arizona Cardinals without moving.
Because of World War II and the shortage of players, the Eagles and Steelers merged for a year forming the Phil-Pitt Steagles.
The Rams have been the Cleveland Rams and Los Angeles Rams before settling in St. Louis as the St. Louis Rams in 1995.
Though Seattle has always been the Seahawks, there was a prior Seahawks in professional football. In 1946, the AAFC had a team called the Miami Seahawks. That year Miami was horrible on and off the field and ended up folding and going out of business.
The World Football League of the 1970s had a team known as the Memphis Southmen, the franchise had originally been planned to be in Toronto and have the nickname of the Toronto Northmen.
Even the National Football League itself was originally named the American Professional Football Association, or the APFA.
So, really… what’s in a name?