WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The District is full of passionate sports fans. But have you ever stopped to wonder 'what's the deal with the team names?' WUSA9 looked into the history of these names in the latest segment of "The Why."
Not all of these origin stories are gripping and interesting. For example, the story behind the Capitals is remarkably boring. In 1974, the city was awarded an NHL franchise and held a city-wide vote on what the name should be. The team owner selected "The Capitals," for obvious reasons.
Don't yawn and close the article yet. Things get more interesting with the Wizards.
The story behind the Wizards actually began in Baltimore, where the franchise was born. At the time, they were called "The Bullets," named after a nearby ammunition foundry. Eventually the team moved to D.C., and the iconic nickname remained for half a century.
The team gained a massive fan base in the District, with many successful seasons. In 1978, the team won the championship against the Seattle SuperSonics.
In 1996, everything changed.
The team owner Abe Pollin decided the name was in poor taste, due to the high level of violence in the city.
"In the old days, our motto was 'faster than a speeding bullet,'" he said in an old Washington Post article. "That's how we were envisioned in Baltimore. Today, the connotation is a little different. It's connected with so many horrible things that people do with guns and bullets."
Later that year, Pollin's good friend, Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated. Pollin decided enough was enough.
"My friend was shot in the back by bullets," he told the Post. "The name Bullets for a sports team is no longer appropriate."
In response, the team had a big city-wide vote to change the name, through a partnership with Boston Market. (That was big in the 90s). They received hundreds of names, many of which were ridiculous. Some of the more bizarre suggestions included "The Antelopes," "The Geckos," "The Litigators," and "The Funkadelicks."
In the end, the suggestions were narrowed down to the following five options: The Sea Dogs, The Express, The Stallions, The Dragons, and The Wizards.
Editor's Note: SEA DOGS?!?! REALLY?!?!
The "lameness" of the finalists was immediately ridiculed by sports writers in the city.
A Post editorial indicated the selections "looked like the output of the same computer programs that create names for new car models and laundry detergents."
But in the end, Pollin chose the Wizards because it was quote "magic, flamboyant, smart and a winner."
The controversial name of the Redskins dates back to 1932. A man named George Peston Marshall was awarded an NFL Franchise for the city of Boston. Initially it was to be called "The Boston Braves." However, there was already a Boston Braves baseball team, so they changed it to avoid confusion.
Marshall said the name was meant to "honor the team's coach William "Lone Star" Dietz, who identified as a member of the Sioux tribe. This has been disputed countless times over the last century by historians, who have said he may not have been Native American at all.
In 1937, the team moved to Washington, and the name has stuck, despite nearly a century of controversy around the name.
Baseball in the District is as old as the league itself. When the American League was created in 1901, the franchise was named the "Washington Senators." However, many in the city used the nickname "The Nationals" or "The Nats" interchangeably at the time.
Even old newspaper articles would use the two nicknames, sometimes even in the same article.
In 1960, that iconic team left D.C. for Minnesota to become "The Twins." One year later, a second "Senators" team came to Washington. This team would remain in the city for a decade, before they left for Texas to become "The Rangers."
Then came a sad period for baseball fans in the nation's capital. For 33 years, the city was without a team. That all changed in 2005, when the Montreal Expos came to D.C.
While many people wanted to return to the iconic "Senators" name, some powerful voices were against it. Former Mayor Anthony Williams was opposed to the name, since the city didn't (and still doesn't) have representation in the Senate.
Also, the Rangers owned the rights to the Senators name at the time, which could make the process complicated. That's why, in the end, the team decided on "The Nationals."
Now you know the WHY behind D.C.'s team names. Now you're ready to impress your friends at the bar.