St. Louis Rams When they were founded in Cleveland in 1937, the team’s owner resisted public pressure to call his club the Indians, after the local baseball team. Instead, he named them after New York City college football team – the Fordham Rams. In 1945, the Rams became the first NFL franchise to switch cities when it moved to Los Angeles. In 1995 they moved again, from L.A. to St. Louis.
Cleveland Browns When the Rams left Cleveland, a new NFL franchise took its place and a contest was held to pick a new name. The winner was the “Panthers”. . .but the owners found out there was already a semipro Ohio football team called the Panthers, and they stunk. So another contest was held. This time the winner was “Brown Bombers,” inspired by boxing champion, Joe Louis. The name was then shortened to the “Browns,” probably because the coach’s name was Paul Brown.
Houston Oilers The owner of the team made all his money in oil and picked the name “for sentimental reasons.”
Oakland Raiders Originally called the “Metropolitan Oakland Area Football Club.” That was too unwieldy, so the Oakland Chamber of Commerce held a contest to find a new one. The winner: “Oakland Senors.” The team’s reaction: “Forget it.” The owners came up with “Raiders” on their own.
Green Bay Packers The club was named for the Indian Packing Company, which sponsored the team when it was formed in 1919. Ironically, the company went out of business during the Packers’ first season. But the team was a success; they joined the NFL two years later.
New Orleans Saints The team was admitted to the NFL on November 1, 1966, which happens to be All Saints Day. But the team probably got its name from the classic New Orleans jazz tune, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Philadelphia Eagles When they first began playing, in 1924, they were a pathetic club called the Frankford Yellowjackets (Frankford was the section of Philly they played in). The team went belly-up during the Depression, and two local businessmen bought it for $2,500. FDR had just been elected president; his two major economic programs – the New Deal and the National Recovery Act – used an eagle as their symbol. The team’s new owners adopted the New Deal eagle as their symbol, too.
Phoenix Cardinals Originally the Chicago Cardinals. They got their name when the team’s owner bought a batch of secondhand jerseys from the University of Chicago. Someone commented that they looked like the university’s maroon shirts, and the owner replied defensively that they weren’t maroon – they were “cardinal red.” The name stuck.
Washington Redskins They started out as the Duluth (Minnesota) Eskimos in 1928. In 1932, because they were having a tough time surviving, they moved to Boston. Their new home was the stadium owned by baseball’s Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves), so they changed their name to the Boston Braves as well. But the arrangement didn’t work out: the following season, the football team moved to Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. To avoid offending the Red Sox (by keeping the name of the local rivals), the football team changed its name from Braves to Redskins. In 1938, the Redskins moved to Washington.
New York Giants When the team was formed in 1925, it played in the Polo Grounds, home of the New York Giants baseball team. Owner Timothy Mara was a Giants fan already, so he named his team after them.
Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, and New York Jets All derived their names from local baseball teams – the Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, and New York Mets.