SBD/Issue 175/Franchises

Leonsis Indicates Wizards Could Change Names, Color Scheme

Leonsis Has Not Decided About
Changing Wizards' Name, Colors

Incoming Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis Friday said that he has yet to decide "whether to change the team's color scheme and nickname," but acknowledged that he has "heard from fans" on the issues, according to Dan Steinberg of the WASHINGTON POST. The franchise changed its name from the Bullets to the Wizards prior to the '97-98 season, but many fans have "requested a return to the red, white and blue color scheme used when the team was known as the Bullets." Leonsis' Capitals returned to "their original colors beginning in 2007, and the change -- combined with the team's increased success -- sparked a surge in merchandise sales." Steinberg noted there was "mild applause" from the crowd at a National Press Club luncheon Friday when Leonsis "was asked about the possibility of a similar change for the Wizards." He said, "I probably will like red colors more than the teal blue that they have, but there's a lot that goes into it. And I intend to listen to people, but I also think Mr. Pollin made a personal decision, and I want to understand it, and I want to pay the appropriate respect that a decision like that would deserve" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/22). Leonsis Friday said that he "plans to start out his NBA ownership 'as an idiot savant,' talking to every person in the company and every owner in the league." He noted that his "personal interactions with fans -- particularly through e-mails -- that have made him such a popular NHL owner will carry over to the NBA" (AP, 5/21).

BUILDING THE WALL: The Wizards own the No. 1 pick in next month's NBA Draft, and in Boston, Gary Washburn wrote the selection of former Kentucky G John Wall "would give the franchise instant credibility and bring life back to Washington basketball." Leonsis said, "Washington is a basketball city, and we have seen with the hockey team how great a first pick is, especially if he is of a worldly talent like Alex Ovechkin." He added, "It gives us hope, and that’s really what you want, especially with the transition into new ownership. You are trying to pay homage to the past but you are trying to do the right thing by the fan base" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/23).

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