It looks like the search for a name for the new Ottawa team may be drawing to a close, and "Ottawa Red Blacks" appears to be the leading candidate. Co-owner Jeff Hunt confirmed to The Ottawa Sun Sunday that the Red Blacks name was on the ownership group's shortlist, and he told the Sun Monday that it's likely the choice unless there's a huge amount of blowback:
Why Red Blacks ... or Les Rouges Noirs ... or whatever variation of that they come up with?
“It speaks to Ottawa sports history, that's probably the logic of it,” said Ottawa Sports and Entertainment group's Jeff Hunt Monday. “When I heard the name, the first thing I thought of was (legendary New Zealand rugby team) All Blacks, with red and black being the connection to Otttawa sports history. It's unique.
“You get a better sense of it once there's a logo created around it. Right now, it's just a name. I don't think a name comes to life until you have full branding attached to it. In black and white, the name Senators doesn't evoke the same feeling as it does when the logo is attached to it. Look at 67's, it's just a number. It was simplistic and nice. And you don't think of it as just a number anymore, it's a brand.”
It's not a lock that the team will be called Red Blacks. But unless there's a huge kerfuffle and outrage from members of the focus group, it seems likely.
“We have to get this figured out soon,” said Hunt. “We have a timeline for jerseys.”
However, the reaction thus far has been largely negative. The Ottawa Citizen has been running a poll asking "Is Ottawa Red Blacks a good name for the city's new CFL team?", and as of Tuesday morning, 3,038 people (91.12 per cent of respondents) had voted "Uh, is this a joke? No!", with only 296 voters (8.88%) saying "Yes, I'd get behind that." Perhaps most notably, legendary former Ottawa quarterback Russ Jackson told Dan Ralph of The Canadian Press that he isn't a fan of the proposed name:
"The Red Blacks, to me, seems to get you to a soccer situation," Jackson said. "I don't know of a professional North American football club that's named with just colours but that seems to be the one that's bouncing around."
Jackson did add that it takes time to get used to a name, and that's certainly true. There haven't been too many high-profile backers of this one, though, unless you count former Ottawa Renegades' owner Lonie Glieberman (and really, Ottawa might be smart to do the opposite of whatever Glieberman suggests). The name's taken plenty of heat on Twitter over the last few days, and the reaction to it doesn't seem to be improving. Perhaps it will test better at Hunt's focus groups, or perhaps it will grow on people over time. (A French version, "Rouge et Noir," might sound better as well; it certainly works for the Laval Rouge et Or and the Sherbrooke Vert et Or.) It's also notable that a similar name has worked well for the Watertown (NY) Red and Black, the oldest semipro football team in the U.S.. Still, the reaction to this has been largely critical.
Of course, picking a name isn't an easy task, especially as the league has decided to allow Saskatchewan to prohibit Ottawa from returning to their natural Rough Riders moniker. With that off the table, there's no easy option for people to agree on, and while plenty of interesting ones have been suggested, they each have their own hardcore groups of supporters and plenty of detractors. Choosing the name's an important decision, too; while putting a good on-field product out is perhaps most crucial to a team's success, having a name fans will embrace or at least accept is also crucial to both getting numbers in the seats and selling merchandise. There are plenty of hurdles ahead for the new Ottawa team, so finding a name most fans are okay with will be crucial for them. We'll see if that turns out to be "Red Blacks" or something else.