American Football name origin

What do newspaper headline type and the New Deal have to do with the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles? Here are the stories behind the nicknames of the NFL’s 32 teams—and what they were almost called.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

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The franchise began play in Chicago in 1898 before moving to St. Louis in 1960 and Arizona in 1988. Team owner Chris O’Brien purchased used and faded maroon jerseys from the University of Chicago in 1901 and dubbed the color of his squad’s new outfits “cardinal red.” A nickname was born. The team adopted the cardinal bird as part of its logo as early as 1947 and first featured a cardinal head on its helmets in 1960.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Shortly after insurance executive Rankin Smith brought professional football to Atlanta, a local radio station sponsored a contest to name the team. Thirteen hundred people combined to suggest more than 500 names, including Peaches, Vibrants, Lancers, Confederates, Firebirds, and Thrashers. While several fans submitted the nickname Falcons, schoolteacher Julia Elliott of nearby Griffin was declared the winner of the contest for the reason she provided. “The falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and fight, ” Elliott wrote. “It never drops its prey. It is deadly and has great sporting tradition.” Elliott won four season tickets for three years and a football autographed by the entire 1966 inaugural team.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Ravens, a reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem, beat out Americans and Marauders in a contest conducted by the Baltimore Sun. Poe died and is buried in Baltimore.

Of the more than 33, 000 voters in the Sun’s phone-in poll, more than 21, 000 picked Ravens. “It gives us a strong nickname that is not common to teams at any level, and it gives us one that means something historically to this community, ” said team owner Art Modell, who had attempted to buy the Colts nickname back from the franchise that left Baltimore for Indianapolis in 1984. The Marauders nickname referenced a B-26 built during World War II by the Glenn L. Martin Company, a predecessor to Lockheed Martin that was based in Baltimore. Other names considered included the Railers, Bulldogs, Mustangs, and Steamers.


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