Why are some pro teams named after a state instead of a city?

This may sound pointless but this has bugged me for quite sometime now. With the Florida Marlins changing to the Miami Marlins next season (FINALLY!!) it really made me start to wonder…why are some teams named after their state instead of the city they play in?

Texas Rangers, Florida Marlins, (once upon a time) California Angels, Indiana Pacers, Carolina Panthers & Hurricanes, Florida Panthers.

What or who decides this? The owner of the team? Can you imagine how silly it would sound if we had the Illinois Bears?

Just like the naming of the team, it’s a marketing decision. It’s decided by the franchise owners, although maybe the league has some say. There’s no other explaination for absurdity like the Angels being named for two different cities.

Agreed - the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? That’s beyond absurd.

I agree that Chicago Bears sounds better than Illinois Bears, but for most teams, I think whatever you’re used to is going to sound better. Denver Rockies is more euphonious than Colorado Rockies, I think, but they’re both fine. The Angels are the most obvious indication of the fact that both the team nickname and the location are just marketing. Plenty of teams don’t play in the actual city they’re named for, and of course, the Giants and Jets don’t even play in the same state. There may be something about it in the league bylaws but I don’t think the leagues would get involved for the most part. Early in their history the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks were the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, named for three cities in Iowa. (They played in Moline, which is one of them.) The area is now called the Quad Cities - they were home to the Quad City Thunder in the CBA before Isiah Thomas happened to the league.

Yep. From the Minnesota Twins wiki page:

I also recall a number of years ago, the Chicago Bears were making noise about moving to Gary, Indiana if they couldn’t get Soldier Field renovated or a new stadium built. The city of Chicago, in turn, announced that they would not allow the Bears to use “Chicago” in their name if they moved, under threat of legal action. While I’m sure it was all just posturing on both sides, I figure these sorts of attitudes can come into play as well.

Chicago threatened the White Sox with the same deal when the Sox mulled over the idea of moving to Addison.

To be honest I’m not sure Chicago could actually stop anyone from using the city’s name, but it is Chicago, after all, and maybe by “sue” they meant “hire thugs to beat people up.”

In the case of the Minnesota Twins, there was a logical explanation. Before Calvin Griffith moved the Washington Senators to the Gopher State, the Twin Cities had two teams in the AAA (highest level of minor league) American Association, the Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints. In order to avoid picking one city name and thus potentially alienating the folks on the other side of the river, the club (actually based from 1961 to '81 in Bloomington) went with the neutral “Minnesota” option. See the original logo’s depiction of “M” and “STP” coming together in friendship.

On preview, I see Wheelz has covered this situation and included “bonus” material, but as my paragraph contains some additional information, I’ll leave it as is.

The Texas Rangers’ story has some similarities to the Twins’. When the “new” Washington Senators (who joined the American League as an expansion team the same year the Twins debuted in Minnesota) moved to the Lone Star State, they opted to call the city of Arlington (part of the Dallas-Fort Worth “metroplex”) home. Rather than playing favorites by picking one city, or awkwardly stringing together the names of two or three municipalities, the club’s brass decided to embrace the whole state and, not incidentally, play off the legendary reputation of the law enforcement unit known as the Texas Rangers.

Also contributing to the use of state names was the NBA’s one-time rival, the American Basketball Association. The ABA’s Carolina Cougars, for example, played home games in Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem in order to appeal to as many North Carolinians as possible. Similarly, the Virginia Squires variously hosted games in Norfolk, Hampton, Richmond, and Roanoke.

Although neither of these teams joined the NBA as part of the partial merger with the ABA, the Indiana Pacers made the transition. Although based solely in Indianapolis throughout its history, the team opted to be as inclusive of the Hoosier State population as possible. Not only was the geographic part of the name thus easier to say and write, the team had an “out” had crowds in Indianapolis not been satisfactory. The franchise could move to Fort Wayne (in which the Pistons had been based before moving to Detroit) or Evansville, but the logo wouldn’t need to change!

Let’s not forget the New England Patriots, who represent 6 states. This was negotiated after their original proposal, the South Of Canada Patriots, was rejected.:smiley:

Nitpick: Moline is in Illinois, as is Rock Island. The third of the “Tri-Cities” was Davenport, Iowa. The Quad Cities moniker was adopted in the 1930’s when East Moline (IL) grew enough, although the Tri-Cities designation obviously hadn’t fallen totally out of favor when the Blackhawks moved from Buffalo to Moline in 1946. Since the Iowa community of Bettendorf is now larger than East Moline, it’s been admitted to the group as well, but (just as the Big Ten is keeping that name despite now being a twelve-team league) the Quad Cities are still styling themselves in just that fashion, as opposed to adopting such a sobriquet as “Quint Cities”.

Hartford Whalers were originally going to take the “New England” moniker themselves, before the Bruins objected, IIRC.

I also seem to have heard somewhere along the way that either the Marlins or the Panthers (can’t remember which one) would have to give up their “Florida” distinction in place of a “Miami” one when they move to a new stadium.

The Marlins. It’s mentioned in the OP.

The Marlins named themselves “Florida” in the hopes of attracting fans in the entire state of Florida to themselves. The Tampa area in particular wanted their own team, and the Marlins were hoping they could pre-empt that.

The attempt obviously didn’t work, and Tampa-area baseball fans didn’t embrace the Marlins as their team, and eventually got their own after all, which they don’t really embrace, but that’s OK, because Miami-area baseball fans haven’t embraced the Marlins all that much either.

You also have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which apparently did not want to alienate potential St. Petersburg fans by calling themselves the Tampa Buccaneers. So the Buccaneers used the body of water the two cities border as its location.

It’s very simple, actually.

At the inception of pro sports, city names were the norm. There were a few exceptions, but only a few. No one put a lot of thought into it.

When pro sports started getting big enough that they were hiring marketing experts (basically, the 1960s), one of the things the marketing people told them was that it made sense to use the biggest regional name you can. Really, if you’re trying to create a fanbase from scratch, why wouldn’t you be as inclusive as you can?

Since ~1970, naming for a state instead of the city has been the norm. The only time it hasn’t been a state is when

  1. There’s another team already in the state
  2. They’re in Canada
  3. They’re in Washington State, which can be mixed up with Washington D.C.
  4. It’s a city that has no other pro sports team named for it.

Looking at the NFL, NBA, MLB, the only exception to that rule has been the New Orleans Hornets.

Hockey seems a lot more random, which is unsurprising.

The New England moniker allowed Robert Kraft to extort a new stadium out of Massachussets by flirting with Connecticut. Connecticut ended up building an embarrassingly oversized stadium for no reason except to strengthen Kraft’s hand in negotiations with MA. The stadium sits completely empty 359 days of the year, and half-empty for UConn’s six home football games.

Riiiight. The dangers of surfing on a phone. :stuck_out_tongue:

With the Titans it was to throw a bone to Memphis to encourage them to vote for the tax increase to bring them here.

Oklahoma City

Except for Buffalo Braves (1970 now LA Clippers) Cleveland Cavaliers (1970) Portland Trail Blazers (1970) New Orleans Jazz (1974) Seattle Seahawks (1976) Seattle Mariners (1977) Dallas Mavericks (1980) Charlotte Hornets (1988) Miami Heat (1988) Orlando Magic (1989) Memphis Grizzlies (1995) Jacksonville Jaguars (1995) Baltimore Ravens ( 1996) Cleveland Browns (1999 though I’ll not count that for historical reasons) Houston Texans (2002) Charlotte Bobcats (2004).

This greatly outnumbers state named team. Utah Jazz (not sure when they moved) Minnesota Timberwolves (1989) Colorado Rockes (1993) Florida Marlins (1993) Carolinae Panthers (1995) Arizona Diamondbacks (1999)

I’ve not included any NHL or other Canadian teams per your original statement, but most of those were city names as well. Also not counted are the two Tampa Bay teams. I have listed teams in states with a previous team.


You forgot about the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma CITY Thunder.